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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two Indian immigrant parents, founded Mirror Memoirs to fight rape culture. The National Storytelling and Organizing Project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA + Blacks, Indigenous peoples and people of color who have survived child sexual abuse.

“Whether you are a survivor or not, 100% of us are raised in the culture of rape. This is the water we swim in. But just like fish don’t know they are in the water. , because it’s just the world around them who they’ve always been there, people (and especially those who aren’t survivors) may actually need help. seeing that, ”they add.

“Mirror Memoirs tries to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture.”

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs out of a theater project called “Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors” which featured their stories and that of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and toolkit. educational project based on the project.

“Secret Survivors had a different gender, race, and age distribution in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women,” Amita explains. “Our goal was to help anyone who wanted to co- create a world free of child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically intended to help survivors find “healing” and “justice” – namely the child welfare system, police and prisons – are in fact systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities, ”Amita continues.“ We all need to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we are truly to end all forms of sexual and cultural violence. rape. “

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors who have historically been overlooked or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia and white supremacy. .

Amita Swadhin

“Hearing the stories of the survivors is absolutely a cure for other survivors, as child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent.”

“As sexual violence is an isolated event, shrouded in shame and stigma, understanding that you are not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, turning isolation into intimacy and connection. “

This is something Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

“My childhood was marked by a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence,” Amita explains. “A mandatory report was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was of no use as prosecutors threatened to jail my mother for ‘being complicit’ in the violence I suffered, even though she was also abused by my father for years. “

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

“I’m grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few very close friends, some of whom also survived child sexual abuse, although we didn’t know how to talk about it at the time,” Amita said.

“I’m also a queer, non-binary woman living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and these identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences,” they continue. “I am really lucky to have such an amazing partner and network of friends and family who love me.”

“These accomplishments put me on the path to my life’s work to end this violence early enough in life,” they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help raise awareness of how pervasive rape culture is. “One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted before the age of 18,” says Amita, “and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender mavericks, the disabled. , the deaf, the homeless, and children placed in institutions. ” By sharing their stories, they hope to create change.

“Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, thanks to mirror neurons in people’s brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs.”

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of LGBTQI + child sexual abuse survivors from BIPOC sharing their stories of survival and resilience, which includes stories from 60 survivors in 50 states. This year, they plan to record 15 more stories, particularly of transgender and non-binary survivors of child sexual abuse in a sport setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

“This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that were proposed in at least 36 states in 2021 aimed at limiting the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and receive gender-affirming medical care with the support from their parents and doctors, ”says Amita.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs hosted its first rally, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a nationally sponsored, tax-sponsored nonprofit with two staff members, a 10-person board of directors, a seven-person board of directors, and 500 nationwide members.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA + community of color and were able to raise a quarter of a million dollars. They received 2,509 requests for help and ultimately decided to divide the money equally among each requester.

While they still use storytelling as a building block of their work, they also engage in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly online membership meetings.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory Burch’s empowered women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund the production costs of their new theater project, “Transmutation: A Ceremony,” featuring four transgender, intersex, and non-binary black women and women who live in California.

“I am grateful to every child survivor of sexual acts who has ever told me the truth,” Amita said. “I know another world is possible, and I know the survivors will build it, along with all of those who love us.”

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy’s Empowered Women program, visit Name an inspiring woman in your community today!

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