In a room of women, the one thing they all have in common is what also makes them different – a set of experiences that make each and every one of those women who they are.
These women were gathered in room 360 of the Student Center for the “Do You D.A.R.E.” event held by Zeta Sigma Chi Mulitcultural Sorority. Dominique E. Moore, the public relations chair and website administrator of Zeta Sigma Chi, says the event is about motivating young women to overcome adversity.
“Your entire life is a dare, because you’re constantly defying adversity, regaining empowerment,” Moore says.
The arrival of the night’s speaker, LaSonja Hansford, one of the six founders of the Omicron Chapter at Eastern Michigan University, was delayed due to the breakdown of her vehicle. Moore joked that Hansford was currently overcoming adversity in her attempt to get to the event, and began by sharing an example of overcoming adversity in her life.
Moore said she faced challenges throughout her college education – she failed the same math class four times and also had to overcome her fear of joining the Honors College.
Moore said the Honors College was something that she found intimidating because it was unknown to her and was something no one around her was involved in.
Moore said that you start to be empowered once your adversity is defied and that then, you must have the will and motivation to move forward – something she did when she finally joined the Honors College at EMU her senior year.“You can’t start a new chapter without closing an old one,” Moore said.
Hansford arrived and was in good spirits despite the setback to her arrival. She immediately asked the women to form a circle in the center of the room and share a few words describing a struggle or adversity they have faced recently or in the past.
The women named topics such as insecurities, broken hearts, finances and being adopted as adversities they’ve come face-to-face with. After the women shared their stories of adversity –
Hansford described her own.
“I would say – this is me. Everything that I’ve been through and I did is who I am today, whether it’s emotional, whether it’s happy, whether it’s sad.”
Hansford then shared the very personal story of an adversity she was faced with beginning at 12 years old. Her father was diagnosed with cancer and soon after, he began sexually abusing her. She said the abuse started with touching, and progressed until she eventually became pregnant at 13 years old as a result of being raped by him. Following her pregnancy, she told her aunt about the sexual abuse.
“And from there, all hell broke loose,” Hansford said.
She says one of the hardest parts of the situation was repeating her story several times.
“That was probably one of the hardest things and the fact that I had to get an abortion,” she said.
“Like, I’m 13. I got raped. I got pregnant. I gotta get an abortion.”
Hansford did not have to deal with her abortion just once, but twice. She said the abortion did not go properly and she had to return to have the procedure redone. Hansford said she did not have to testify against her father because he admitted to the abuse.
“After that situation, I felt like my teenage years I did whatever,” she said. “I wasn’t out of control by any means, but I’m pretty sure that I gave away my body to too many dudes for too many reasons.”
Hansford said she battled within herself thoughts of how things would be if she had decided not to terminate her pregnancy, and also battled conflicted feelings about her father.
“I wanted to hate him, but at the same time I love him,” she said. “‘You’re my father, you helped create me. How can I hate you? How could you do this to me? How can I still love you at the same time?’ all balled up into one.”
Hansford said it took her years to become comfortable with telling her serious partners what she had been through. She said there were times when she had triggers and would have to share her story. She said at the end of the day, what she’s been through helps her understand that everyone goes through hard times in their lives, whether that struggle is similar to hers or something else entirely.
“I used to think, I’m tired of telling the story,” she said. “I’m comfortable with LaSonja because that made me who I am today.”
Hansford said her younger brothers do not know about the abuse from her father, and that she is unsure if she should tell them or not.
“I feel like that is going to create a whole other person inside of them if I tell them.”
Hansford opened up discussion to the group and asked them if they believed she should or should not share her story with her brothers. Multiple audience members said that they think that not sharing the information is best, while others disagree and feel that if they were in the brothers’ positions, they would want to know.
While voicing their opinions, other stories of people’s adversities are brought into the open. One woman says she has also been sexually abused, and another talks about accusations of sexual abuse within her own family.
The sharing of experiences makes something apparent – some of these women have been through similar experiences, but they mean different things to each person and are handled by each woman in a different way.
In her opening of the event, Moore said, “We all have different stories that make us who we are.”
After two hours in room 360, and the sharing of stories by Hansford and other women, Moore’s words are undeniably true.
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