My name is Heather Schreck. I am 39 years old. I am a daughter, a sister, and a friend, I am a woman and I am a survivor.
It took me four months after my assault in college, to tell my story for the first time. I was confronted by one of my best friends, who in the middle of Baker’s Square in Chicago had simply asked me ‘what the hell’ was going on. My friend is a very strong, beautiful no BS woman of Columbian dissent. As I stared at her after her question was asked I couldn’t help me smile. See, if there was one woman who wouldn’t miss anything it would be her. She had noticed how I had retreated within myself. How the male friends we shared, I ignored. How it was difficult for me to sit on those wood chairs in class. The feminist and strong woman I was growing into had disappeared. I was terrified and tried to avoid so many things that I was becoming more exhausted by running so hard. I was tired.
It felt good to be asked. To have someone notice something wasn’t right. Someone to pull the words out my throat and get them out. After silencing myself, I had someone who demanded a voice. There would have only been one person at that time that I could have done that with. Today, she holds such a deep and very special place in my heart for allowing me to be honest. To share. To cry. Because of her, I began to heal.
The healing process was slow and continues. I never did seek therapy but I found therapy in many other ways. Little by little I was able to trust again and be in a room with male friends that I didn’t want to bolt from. I still trigger from time to time, but I am stronger. It doesn’t define me, but a part of me.
I was living in Los Angeles when I first learned of V-Day. My first thought of Eve Ensler was how revolutionary she was. I wouldn’t have believed even as a feminist, that a woman would interview over 200 women about their vaginas! The more I read about V-Day, the mission, and the work the more I wanted to be involved. I wanted to give back. So I did what I’m sure millions of women have done and I wrote to her from my heart. Never in a million years did I think I would get a response. I did from one of the V-Day staffers saying how beautiful and inspiring my email was and how they were so honored I was joining the fight. A couple days later I received an email from Eve herself. It hangs on my refrigerator to this day.
After meeting and working with Eve on a benefit for RAWA, a women’s group in Afghanistan that I volunteered with in LA, I knew what inspiration and passion was. These Afghan women and this American woman had changed my life. That day I was able to give Eve the back story of my email to her and how her response hung on my refrigerator. When I spoke to her honestly about my story she had such an open, honest, pure love in her eyes. We shared tears and a hug that was the most powerful blanket of empowerment I had ever known at that moment. It solidified my commitment to this issue for women here and around the world, but also for myself.
So why would I not join her in rising on V-Day’s her calling for One Billion people to strike, dance and rise on V-Day’s 15th Anniversary? Some may say? ‘One Billion people striking and dancing in the streets? There’s no way that will happen.’ They obviously don’t know Eve and that everything she has asked and set to do have been done. Or how V-Day and the Vagina Monologues have empowered communities all over the world to talk about the violence and act against it, while helping organizations worldwide. Still not convinced? There are tens of thousands of organizations that have signed on in over 190 countries. Over 25 million people in Bangladesh alone have signed on board!
We can still be angry at the words of Todd Aiken, Paul Ryan or as of late New Mexico’s Rep. Cathryn Brown, but what if we came together, walked out of wherever we were, came together standing as one unit with our sisters and brothers around the world dancing with a universal message of NO MORE. Drawing on hope, inspiration and a better tomorrow together. Healing through unity.
I will be dancing on February 14th, for my friend who had the courage to ask, for the woman in my life who are survivors or not, for woman who have their own stories, for women of the coming generations and me. I hope you will join me. Let us make history and RISE together!
For more information on One Billion Rising, please visit onebillionrising.org.
Heather Schreck has worked as a volunteer with the Afghan Women’s Mission, a canvasser for RAAP, volunteer event coordinated V-Day Denver 2011 benefitting NCADV, and is on CCASA's SAAM planning committee for April. She works as the Fundraising Events Manager at the Open Media Foundation.