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“Girl Talk” Inspires Others to Share Their Stories
August 26, 2016 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Courier & Press, August 26, 2016 –
Lillian Martin knows how important it is to share her story.
The 17-year-old, who attends Harrison High School, said she used to cringe at the thought of sharing some of her history, which included living with emotional abuse and a parent who had addiction and mental health issues. But on Thursday night, she shared her story with dozens of complete strangers.
Martin was one of dozens of teens and preteens in attendance at Girl Talk, held at the Old National Events Plaza last week. The program was offered by Project Reveal, the Women’s Hospital and Youth First. The program focused on subjects including puberty, peer pressure, sexuality and healthy relationships.
“I used to be that girl who would sit there and cry, and I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone why I was crying,” Martin said. “But tonight I felt empowered. I felt like I could share my story and tell all of these other girls that it’s OK, and they were not alone.”
In a session that focused on unhealthy relationships, abuse and sexual pressures — Martin was one of many teens who opened up and shared their experiences with those same subjects.
But it all started when Nikki Moore, a board member of Project Reveal, started the session with sharing her own history with an abusive relationship.
“I may not look like a typical statistic, but I was,” Moore told the group. “I was abused every single day by someone who I thought at one point loved me.”
And not long after Moore started sharing her history with an abusive relationship and how she was able to escape, the hands around the room started to raise and tears started to fall.
“It’s a matter of life and death,” Moore told one teen, who shared how she survived an abusive relationship. “And I am so glad to see you sitting there alive.”
One by one, teens shared stories of abusive relationships, struggles with sexuality, suicide attempts, and more — and there was one universal message facilitators wanted to get across to everyone: You are not alone.
“Everybody has an important story to tell,” Moore said. “We might not know it just by looking at someone, but deep down, they could be dealing with the same exact issue you are.”
In neighboring rooms, facilitators also worked with preteens and the adults who care for them about different topics. The goal of the evening wasn’t necessarily to tell parents what to say but rather give them the tools they need to help those conversations.
Katie Omohundro, a Youth First social worker, addressed one group of preteens about the issue of sending text messages that involved a sexual nature — sexting — and how to avoid being pressured into that.
“It’s very easy to say yes to a friend and just go along with it,” Omohundro said. “But it’s also important to remember these kind of things have consequences.”
Preteens also participated in exercises that focused on self-esteem and positive body image. Encouraging girls to engage in discussions with their adult caregivers after the program was a big part of the evening as well.
Martin said she was a “big believer” in trying to build others up. She said making other people feel better about themselves helps her heal, too.
“Helping people helps me,” Martin said. “I guess that sounds kind of cheesy. But it’s true.”
Moore said she was stunned by the response after sharing some of the stories from her past and only hopes that those same teens will use their own stories to help others, too.
“I am floored right now,” Moore told the group. “I thought we were going to be educating you, but you are all educating us. I just do not have the words to describe the emotions I have running through my mind.”
She was hesitant to share her story on Thursday. Talking about her experience with abuse was difficult with people she knew, but she thought it would be impossible to do with strangers.
“Thinking about what I wanted to say tonight brought up a lot of ugly things,” Moore said. “But I am so glad I did it. I am so proud of each and every one of these girls. They are doing exactly what they should be doing, and that’s refusing to be silent about what they have been through.”
Martin went around the room and encouraged others to speak up and reach out when they needed to.
“Whatever you do, don’t be silent. Please,” Martin said.
As for Moore, she said Thursday was “not what she expected.” It was even better.
“What happened tonight was beautiful,” she said. “All of these girls turned the tables on me. I used to wonder why what I went through had to happen to me. I told myself there had to be a reason for all of that heartache. Tonight was a reminder of why I need to keep sharing my story. Tonight was what I like to call grace in action, because that’s the only way to describe what just took place in this room.”
Project Reveal founder Stacey Godbold said the main goal of Girl Talk was to help start conversations, but that it is only the beginning.
“Sometimes parents need a reminder about what their daughters are going through — it’s been a long time since they walked in those same shoes, and things have changed a lot too,” Godbold said. “This event was just the beginning of getting those conversations started. We wanted to provide the tools to empower both the girls and the parents to be able to start some really powerful conversations about really important topics. That’s what Project Reveal is all about — helping people relate and through life’s challenges together.”