Chasing In Stilettos 2017 :Venkayla Haynes

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I can only sit and imagine about the type of person I would be if I didn’t experience sexual assault. A part of me was taken away and replaced
with anger, depression and the limited ability to trust anyone. Sometimes,
I feel like I’ll never get that piece back no matter how hard I search for it. I started getting molested at 12 years old and it carried on until I was 17 years old. The gruesome experience was over the course of 5 years, the individual was not a stranger but someone who my family trusted. It’s unfortunate that at such a young age I lost myself before I even had the chance to start that journey of finding myself.

Whenever I looked in the mirror I didn’t see anyone appealing to the eye. I constantly compared myself to others which lowered my self-esteem. “Why didn’t I look like them, have hair like that, or have those nice clothes?” The
more the abuse occurred the more things started to change. Depression
and anger were the most frequent forms of trauma that I dealt with personally. As if that was not enough, I went through bouts of suicidal thoughts and attempts. My abuse ended because I moved away due to fighting in school and at my new school, I was okay but still had to learn how to cope and I was still dealing with trauma but I got through it.
Soon, it was time for me to graduate from high school and go to college, I was so excited. This was a fresh start for me, but unfortunately I experienced sexual assault again by being raped by someone I thought was a friend, someone I trusted.

Words can’t even explain how I felt, I was dealing with sexual assault once again. How was I going to fully heal from being abused as a child when
I’m dealing with more trauma again? I didn’t know where to turn, I didn’t know who to talk to, all I knew was that I was basically ‘damaged goods’ and that nobody was ever going to want me. Sexual assault changed me, since I couldn’t defend myself in those situations I now get defensive when anybody says or does something to me. I always want to stand up for myself, I always get angry, it’s hard for me to trust people, it’s hard for me to love myself. I hated everything about myself and for the life of me, I couldn’t find happiness even in the smallest places. Every morning I dreaded getting up out of bed because I had to deal with this harsh reality, it was easier to just sleep and
never wake up.

I’m currently a student at Spelman College studying biology with hopes
of becoming a Forensic Pathologist, specializing in rape and sexual homicides. I decided to become more vocal about my story at Spelman which soon led to my activism. I told my story at a “Let It Glow” event which was a huge step. My emotions took over as I shared the
details of my story, I started crying, my hands were shaking, and at
times I could barely talk. In the end I was able to finish and it felt
like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. My friends motivated
me to become an advocate and help others.

In 2015, I served as 1 of 17 students across the United States on the ItsOnUs Student Advisory Committee 2015-2016 for the White House and Generation Progress. ItsOnUs is a campaign launched by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, that fights against sexual assault on college campuses. As a member of this inaugural committee, my job was to help promote ItsOnUs events, participate in conference calls, plan events
throughout the school year for the ItsOnUs Week Of Action, participate in Twitter chats, and also continue to spread the ItsOnUs message on campus and in communities for others to join the movement of fighting against sexual assault. In November 2015, Vice President Joe Biden visited the Atlanta University Center to talk to students and faculty of Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University about sexual assault and holding each other accountable.

I had the opportunity to meet and work with members of the White House and Generation Progress as well as meeting the Vice President, and
introducing him on stage. I’ll never forget getting a hug and kiss on the cheek from Joe Biden and him telling me “You’re an amazing person and I admire what you do.” My work continued with ItsOnUs and the fight to end sexual assault by informing students of their Title IX rights, having events on consent, helping other college students host ItsOnUs events, pledge drives, working with administration and protesting. One protest that went viral on social media and caught the attention of some of the biggest media outlets such as Teen VogueCNN, Essence, JET Magazine, etc. was RapedAtSpelman, where a Spelman student told her sexual assault story via Twitter which went viral so student activists, including myself, decided to protest which led to students and faculty showing up, voicing their opinions, and some telling their stories.

In addition to my work, I partnered with the mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed and his Take A Stand Campaign to launch Atlanta as an official ItsOnUs city. Following the event, I had a chance to sit down with District Attorneys, celebrities, survivors, members of Atlanta Police Department and city council to discuss next steps on fighting against sexual assault in the state of Georgia. Over the summer, I interned with Sexual Health Innovations in California for their Callisto Project. Callisto is an online reporting process used by universities for students who experience sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. This system was presented at the White House Data Jam on protecting students against sexual assault.

Ending sexual assault on college campuses is not the only thing that I want to do but also in work environments, high schools, communities, and the military as well. I’m also a member of the High School Engagement Subcommittee for ItsOnUs where I visit high schools in Atlanta to talk to different classes consisting of seniors and juniors about ItsOnUs to make sure they are aware of what is happening on college campuses and how to be safe. As a sexual assault awareness advocate, I believe that the best way to fight against the issue is to educate people, support survivors, and hold students who commit the crime accountable for their actions.

My activism lead to me being invited to the White House, receiving an invitation to attend the United State of Women Summit as a nominated
Changemaker, letters from Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama, and being recognized in blogs and websites in my community and outside communities. Today I’m currently working with sexual assault organizations such as ItsOnUs, End Rape On Campus, and NO MORE.

Working with survivors at various institutions is something I also do and I’m grateful that these students trust me and are allowing me to be there for them. Apart from fighting against sexual assault, I’m very dedicated to helping the community through service by planting trees with Trees
Atlanta, volunteering at many events, helping the homeless, and mentoring students not only in the United States but also in Africa by providing them with project based learning activities, unlimited educational and professional resources that mold them into young leaders.
In addition to community service, I currently tutor students in the AUC in mathematics, and a Peace Corps Campus Ambassador. I’m also a recipient of the Women On Deck award that recognizes young women for excellence and want to make an impact in their communities. In addition to becoming a Forensic Pathologist, I someday aspire to become the President of the United State

2 thoughts on “Chasing In Stilettos 2017 :Venkayla Haynes

  1. Ooooohhh…..what a story. I admire her courage, lot of girls out there are afraid to say no to sexual assault and they endure everything in silence.Thumps up gal

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