Producer, Author, and Advocate on Mental Health and Healing

Each month, RAINN highlights a member of its National Leadership Council (NLC). The NLC is a group of dedicated individuals who have shown their commitment to RAINN’s mission of supporting survivors and ending sexual violence. This month, senior content writer and strategist Sierra Scott checked in with producer, author, and advocate India Oxenberg.

Why are you passionate about ending sexual violence?

The reason why I am so passionate about ending sexual violence is because I think it’s the root of the mental health crisis that we are experiencing these days. I think so many people suffer from extended trauma because of sexual violence. Whether it’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, an eating disorder, or mental health issues in general, I think a lot of it can be traced back to trauma. If people are able to make the connections and see how it has such a dramatic and devastating effect on people’s lives, then maybe people would be more motivated to speak out against it and stand up for each other. It’s also about recognizing that this is a people problem and this issue is violence from people to people and that can be stopped.

Why did you want to be a part of RAINN’s National Leadership Council?

I respect groups that actually make tangible change especially in a space that can be so difficult to combat like sexual violence. The fact that RAINN has an accessible National Sexual Assault Hotline that provides solutions and resources to anyone that needs it, I can get behind that because it’s not like one person can combat this whole issue; it requires a community and a community that is extensive so that it doesn’t matter where you are in the U.S.. There is somebody and some place that you can go that’s safe and where you can be taken care of. That is an easy message for me to get behind.

What was it like to work with RAINN on the op-ed documenting the grooming signs of the NXIVM cult and how did the public respond to the article published by People Magazine?

I loved working on that article with RAINN and I was proud. I felt like we gave an easy explanation to how these things work. The feedback that I received was that people could relate and I think that’s the beauty of sharing this information. You often feel so alone in these experiences. But, to know that there are others who you can relate to and that you can identify with, you can begin to see yourself in their experiences, and that is helpful. It can help you feel less alone, less stigmatized, and less broken. This is just, unfortunately, what happens sometimes in the world and if you don’t inform and educate yourself, it’s so much easier to be taken advantage of.

What has been most helpful in your healing journey?

Time. I wanted to think that these things would resolve quickly and that I wasn’t going to feel pain, sadness, and grief; I thought I could skip all of the tough stuff. But the truth is, the only way out is through. You could try and trick yourself into avoiding conversations with yourself and with a trusted professional is helpful but it doesn’t work like that. Ignoring these conversations with a trusted support system tends to show up in other ways in your life. If you feel safe enough and brave enough to just start talking about it with someone that you trust. We often get so re-traumatized by even talking, thinking, or remembering the experience that we often may be like I don’t even want to go there. But the truth is, you kind of need to be your own parent in that moment and be like I’m going to hold your hand and we are going to go back in time. We are going to revisit this moment and we are going to remind ourselves that we are safe here, right now. Developing an inner dialogue with myself, that was kind and not judgemental, has been really important. My mom taught me a mantra that I continue to say and that is the following; I bring all of me back here right now.

What is your message to survivors?

Just because things have happened to you and to us, it does not mean that it needs to define the rest of your life. You have the choice to be free of it and to also use it for your own benefit. That may sound weird to say, especially when we are talking about trauma, but the truth is that you can either let the trauma consume you and you can see no way out or you can use it as a way to make yourself stronger and then you will see a way out that has your future included. You are not broken for the rest of your life and you might feel like that at times, but I want to hold hope that whoever is suffering in silence out there, is that you can get through this, you can heal, and you can find love.

Eight out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone who knows the victim.

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