This week is UW-L's Social Justice week exposing certain truths that we don't like to hear. Perhaps it's easier to be like some of our leaders who state these topics are all lies.
Day 1 Natureman and I were able to attend two sessions- one a 3 person panel on Being a Black Male using Ta-Nehisi Coates's books quotes and the second which I'll share now, on Sexual Abuse by Voiceless film producer Iowan Vanessa McNeal.
Ms McNeal was on campus to 'unmask' (bear witness) sharing her lifetime of neglect and sexual abuse starting at a very early age. It was her Grandparents who rescued her and her siblings from mentally unstable and chemically dependent young parents.
Once truancy was eliminated by living with grandparents who made sure school was a daily occurrence and
a concerned first grade teacher who helped little Vanessa with remediation. She was bright and excelled but no one knew of her secret, sexual molestation.
Unfortunately, after a cousin sexually molested both her and an older sister, the older sister continued the molestation and eventually preyed on their younger siblings too. Although this molesting sister was placed in a relative's home, Vanessa had her first boyfriend at 12 who was violent, possessive and sexual. At 15 she was raped by another teen, resulting in PTSD. Common rape victim depression even caused thoughts of suicide. Only in group therapy did she learn that others shared her secret.
Ms McNeal was the first in her family to graduate high school and college (Iowa State University 2015) receiving a Masters from U of Northern Iowa 2017. She produced and filmed her life story first and then because internationally known as Best Director for the documentary "The Voiceless" about 5 male survivors of sexual violence at the Newark International Film Festival. She also received the honor of the Women Filmmaker Award of Recognition at Indiefest.
Besides being on a lecture circuit now sharing her story and encouraging others to share theirs, she owns her own media company and has just completed a fundraising campaign to fund her next project directing Gridshock about sex trafficking in Iowa.
Ms McNeal is a determined, smart, young attractive woman who has faced systemic adversity. Quoting the young director she states her story isn't rare but her outcome is.
Well, as all of us sit on the shoulders of others, the Women's movement and Me, Too timing certainly provide a lot of once taboo stories waiting to be told...