GRC hosts discussion on sexual assault
Rachel O'Grady | Thursday, October 27, 2016
During Scheherazde Tillet’s sophomore year of college, she learned her older sister was a rape survivor.
“She was raped her freshman year and then again her junior year, and I remember her telling me this very clearly,” Tillet said at the Gender Relation Center’s annual “A Time to Heal” dinner Wednesday night. “I was a sophomore at the time, and I remember feeling hopeless and angry and not sure what to do next, because I grew up in a home of silence, but I also grew up in a home that understood sexual violence.”
Tillet said she turned to photography to grapple with her sister’s experience with sexual violence and began to document her recovery through a series of photographs.
“It’s such an abstract thing to think, you know, how do we capture someone’s healing process?” Tillet said. “The camera can be such a way that has harmed so many people, particularly with interpersonal violence, and it can be used against you.”
As a result of the collection of photographs, Tillet teamed up with her sister, Salamishah, to create a documentary titled “Story of a Rape Survivor,” featuring the photos, along with performances by a variety of artists.
“It came around more to the fact that we’re celebrating the courage it takes for someone to heal, so we’re trying to put courage on a pedestal, and [the documentary] was sort of an homage to that,” Tillet said.
Ugochi, a singer hailing from Chicago, is featured in “Story of a Rape Survivor.”
“When I joined ‘Story of a Rape Survivor’ I thought I was just going to be singing somewhere, but you know, I found out it’s not going to just be a sort of gig,” Ugochi said. “It brought a lot of things forward for me, even the fact that I was a survivor, something I had repressed as well.”
In facing the reality of her own rape, Ugochi said working on the film helped her to deal with her issues.
“I was raped in college, too, and I really had repressed that, and it was great to have a resource to work all of those emotions and feelings. I gained a whole family through these performers,” she said.
Ugochi said she was also impressed by the male presence on the project.
“It’s really empowering too to see these men who, you know, it’s not just women who this happens to, so it’s been really great to see them out there supporting a way to end sexual violence,” Ugochi said.
Ugochi said it was special to be able to do what she loved while helping others.
“I think I’ve done this for so long because I got so much out of it,” Ugochi said. “The relationships you create with these people is really just so incredible, because it’s hard to find those really human moments, and trying to feel like you’re doing something and feeling what they’re feeling.”
In her experience spreading awareness about sexual violence, Ugochi said she is impressed by the efforts many colleges are making to end it.
“I was blown away by the University of Kentucky; the men there were just as active as activists as the women, and it was really just incredible,” Ugochi said. “They were there for the women and that level of camaraderie was really just all around, that energy, was just so great.”