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Ignite Phoenix After Hours

I Can’t Stay Silent Anymore

The way sexual assault is handled in the U.S. makes me so frustrated. Sexual abuse and sexual assault is so pervasive – the CDC estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused and the number of women who are sexually assaulted in their lifetime is devastatingly high, and yet it’s something that is almost never discussed. I saw the trailer for the documentary about sexual assault on college campuses, The Hunting Ground, last tonight and it filled me with fire.

I get so angry when I hear about child molestation by church priests, the abuse by Jerry Sandusky, and the pervasiveness of sexual assaults on college campuses. I’m not angry just because people are being attacked, but because the institutions who are responsible for the victims’ safety are protecting the perpetrators. They are more concerned about maintaining their reputations than doing what’s right. Are they completely oblivious to the devastating effects of sexual assault? Do they know that they have shamed people into silence and attack them for speaking up? It makes me so angry and frustrated at “the system” that it’s hard to find words to express it. I just want to scream at them.

To every institution that turned a blind eye or blamed or shamed of victim who was sexually assaulted under their watch – Fuck You! I don’t believe in protecting perpetrators or the people that protect them.

As a survivor of sexual assault, my heart goes out to these victims and fellow survivors. I suspect I know your pain, your anger, and your shame. We live in a world that tells us to stay silent about being victimized and traumatized, to “get over it.” The people who say this are too uncomfortable with the fact that this happens everywhere and to all types of people, so they try to ignore it. They push the problem onto the victims when it’s really them who have the real problem.

The survivors of sexual assault have a challenge – to deal with the damage of the trauma we’ve been through. And if you’re a survivor too, you know how soul crushing and devastating it can be. This isn’t something we just “get over.” We live with it for the rest of our lives. It’s our responsibility to do what we have to do to take care of ourselves, whatever that looks like. And for some of us dealing with this deep trauma doesn’t take weeks or months; it takes years, maybe even a lifetime.

I’ve been silent for too long, shamed by individuals, institutions, and cultural norms. Speaking only for myself, I feel like I’m at a point where I can’t say that survivors should feel empowered to speak out whenever they need to an to call out individuals and institutions that perpetuate this problem, unless I’m willing to speak out too.

Unexpected Stars of Ignite Phoenix #10

I have been involved with Ignite Phoenix since the fall of 2009.  I presented at Ignite #5 and I have been a volunteer at every Ignite Phoenix event since.  I love the Ignite Phoenix crew and the Ignite concept.    It’s hard to describe what Ignite Phoenix is because words alone do not do it justice.  The Ignite Phoenix page describes it as “an information exchange for fostering and inspiring Phoenix’s creative community.  In one evening, you hear 18 passionate speakers from our creative, technical, and business communities talking about their current projects or favorite ideas for just five minutes.  Presentations will educate and inspire you, and maybe make you laugh in the process.”  Each speaker gets 5 minutes and 20 slides to talk about their passion, and their slideshow advances every 15 seconds whether they like it or not.

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams

I volunteer backstage on the night of Ignite Phoenix.  My job involves wrangling the presenters before the show, orienting them to the stage and the evening, answering questions and calming their fears, putting microphones of presenters during the show, and running around doing odd jobs throughout the night.  I love what I do, but because I run around so much during the show, I only see half of each presenter’s performance at best.  I watch every presentation in its entirety a few weeks later when the videos of each presenter are posted on YouTube.

Even though I don’t get to see the show in its entirety on show night, there are always a few presenters who grab my attention.  Usually they are the people I did not expect to be captivating.  Ignite Phoenix #10 was no exception.  These women were the unexpected stars of the show for me.

  • Corri Wells:  I initially perceived Corri as a somewhat sweet and soft-spoken person.  I saw on the program that her topic was “Anger” and I expected her to talk from a psychological perspective.  I didn’t expect her to take the stage with such a powerful presence and advocate for people to use their anger to make their voices heard and create change.  “Publish or democracy perishes.”
  • Bogi Lateiner:  Bogi’s presentation was “How Learning to Change A Tire Changed My Life.”  When I met her I noted how girly she was in her skinny jeans and heels.  She is the epitome of a person you would expect not to know the first thing about cars, yet when as I listened to her speak about her experiences rebuilding her Volkswagen bug and teaching women about automotive basics, I began to picture her working on her car in a pair of faded coveralls and a smear of grease across her face.  The lesson that I took away from her was that it’s empowering to know how to do things yourself, and it gives you a sense of security.  She made me want to know more about the inner workings of my car and just how to do be more handy in general.

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams

It’s people like Corri and Bogi that make me love Ignite Phoenix so much.  You never know what to expect and you always walk away from the experience entertained, enlightened, and inspired.

If you want more information about what it’s like to be an Ignite Phoenix presenter, Jay Thompson was also a presenter at Ignite Phoenix #10 and wrote an excellent post about his experience of being a presenter from his application submission through to his actual performance on the Ignite stage.

Submissions are currently being accepted for Ignite Phoenix #11 on October 28, 2011 and its big sister show, Ignite Phoenix After Hours #2 on July 29, 2011.