Archive for the ‘april: sexual assault awareness month’ Category

Operation Freefall and SOAR SPA 2009: Empowering Women and Changing Lives

June 10, 2009

The third SOAR SPA (Something Positive Afterward) was held in Orlando April 22-26, 2009 and this year was combined with another exciting SOAR event, Operation Freefall, Two-Mile High Stand Against Sexual Assault®!

SOAR SPA brought together friends old and new, a small group of women from a handful of US states and territories, 4 members of Team SOAR – myself included – and three facilitators. Kellie Greene’s idea for SOAR SPA came from her mother, Odette, who was integral in her personal healing process. Kellie knew that her experience and journey would have been very different had it not been for the core values her mother had instilled in her since her childhood, and her constant, unwavering support. SOAR SPA retreats are designed to provide support, self-discovery, empowerment and build strong relationships in the aftermath of sexual assault. Healing from sexual abuse and assault is not something that anyone should have to go through alone.

SPA participants including myself, Team SOAR members Shannon, Beth and Christina and Kellie. .

SPA participants including myself, Team SOAR members Shannon and Beth, and Kellie.

This SPA was also the first one in which outside supporters were not invited to attend. Instead, in this intimate group, we found the companionship and unconditional love in one another. Over the 5 days of the retreat, we laughed and cried, broke down walls that we had built around ourselves, healed, explored and discovered ourselves, and built and deepened amazing friendships. It may seem incredible and almost unbelievable that this could all happen over the course of only 5 days, but it is something I have seen and experienced personally in all of the SOAR events I have attended. As I re-read the introduction letter we all received on the first night of SPA, stating Kellie’s mission, it brought tears to my eyes, for her, for myself and for all the amazing women she has touched along the way. Kellie has succeeded in creating what she set out to, and has changed lives and inspired so many over the years.

"Blue Skies!" Lisa, Kellie, Stefanie and Beth prepare to jump!

"Blue Skies!" Lisa, Kellie, Stefanie and Beth prepare to jump!

After two intense days of self-exploration, Saturday morning we all packed up for the day and headed out to SkyDive City in Zephryhills, where most would take the Two-Mile High Stand Against Sexual Assault. SkyDive City is a fantastic host, and drop-zone owner TK and his staff are always incredibly welcoming and supportive. At SkyDive City, the group met up with the rest of the freefallers, some of whom were new to Operation Freefall and to skydiving, and got to see many of our yearly participants and supporters. There was nervous excitement as we prepared to jump, some, like myself, were freefall veterans and others were preparing for their very first fall! As each group headed out to the “Freefall Express”, the plane that would take us 13,500 feet in the air, but not bring us back to earth, cheers and applause resounded.

Lindsey and Marilyn embrace after Lindsey's first jump!

Lindsey and Marilyn embrace after Lindsey's first jump!

The acclaim turned celebratory as the chutes became visible and our friends floated back to earth. The day ended with a meal at the drop-zone at sunset and later, a drum circle by campfire, under the starry night sky. Drummer, Steve Turner of Giving Tree Music led the circle and taught everyone about community and joy with his dynamic presence, presentation and motto, “drumming is easy!” We danced, drummed and chanted, delighting in the power and energy that we had created together, and continued to build. What a magical end to a wonderful day!

Drummer, Steve Turner, of givingtreemusic.com

Drummer, Steve Turner, of givingtreemusic.com

This SOAR SPA included many interactive activities, group projects, individual exercises and quiet reflection time. In addition to talk therapies, we participated in art therapies, a Reiki workshop, Improvisation, meditation and the opportunity to address issues and struggles as they presented themselves. Allowing for concerns to be brought to the light as needed afforded us all extra opportunities for growth and healing as we and the facilitators went with the flow, as we need to do in most aspects of our lives. There was also close attention paid to the fact that after creating and flourishing in the safe environment we had created together, we needed to prepare ourselves to go back out into the world, and take the tools and lessons we had acquired with us, while recognizing that such trust and openness would not exist in all other areas of our lives.

Sunday brought the closing of the SPA retreat and many tearful but hopeful goodbyes. We all had become such a close-knit group over the experiences that made up the SPA, some planned and many more unplanned. Exchanging contact information and promising to keep in touch, the charismatic and brave group headed our separate ways, each of us holding our heads much higher than when we walked in, only 5 days before, and radiating a new and infinitely positive energy and wisdom.

It was indeed, an honor, a joy and a privelage to be a part of this, my second, SOAR SPA.

Blue Skies, and Love and Light…

Nicole

Witnessing History

April 10, 2009
Our fearless leader, Kellie, with President Obama

Our fearless leader, Kellie, with President Obama

April 8, 2009 was a historic day in the fight against sexual assault. For the first time in history, a Presidential Proclamation was issued to recognize National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.  As a survivor and advocate for sexual assault awareness, I am proud of our President’s decision to formally recognize the terror so many women (and men) face and join our fight against this brutal crime.  No matter your political affiliation, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that executive recognition of this month is another step toward eradicating sexual crime and improving public awareness.

Below is an excerpt of President Obama’s proclamation:

“Sexual assault scars the lives of millions in the United States. To increase awareness about this issue, prevent future crimes, and aid victims, this month we mark National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. . .To make continued progress, my Administration supports efforts to help Americans better understand this issue. Working together, we can reduce the incidence of sexual assault and help all who have experienced this heinous crime.”

To read the  Presidential Proclamation in its entirety, please click here.

Stay tuned for more blog posts about upcoming SOAR events!

Love to you and yours — Amanda

Operation Freefall: Two-Mile High Stand Against Sexual Assault®.

April 2, 2009

Each year, on the last Saturday of April, thousands of people across the country take a Two-Mile High Stand Against Sexual Assault®. Operation Freefall began in 2001, when SOAR founder, Kellie Greene, took to the skies for her first ever jump, hoping to reclaim the day she was attacked and recover her spirit. Since that very first jump, Kellie’s vision has continued to grow and expand, each year more and more supporters come out for this event as jumpers, supporters, donors and volunteers. Dozens of “drop zones” (skydive facilities) participate in the event nationwide, providing jumpers with instruction, training and support from a USPA (United States Parachute Association) licensed tandem master, taking them on the ride of their lives!

Five years ago and around the five year anniversary of my assault, I took a leap of faith in more ways than one, and traveled to my nearest Operation Freefall drop zone, 1300 miles from my Caribbean home, to DeLand, Florida, for the weekend that would revitalize my soul and give me my life back. I traveled alone, meeting up with some of the most amazing women I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know, and sharing our first skydiving experience together. Five years later, several of them are some of my closest and dearest friends.

For the first time in my life, and certainly the first time since I had begun actively working on healing from rape, I found myself surrounded by people who understood me and didn’t judge. I finally felt that I was not alone in what I was going through, and here were all these amazing, dynamic women – each with their own unique lives, careers, interests and talents – living each day as I was, as a survivor of rape. At that time, that was exactly how I saw myself. It was difficult to function without the paralyzing stigma of being a woman who was raped, I felt like it defined me and consumed me. Meeting the other jumpers and supporters that day, and also meeting Kellie for the first time, I was able to see, in action, the power and strength in all of us. My adventure was just beginning, we hadn’t even jumped yet!

Scared would have been a drastic understatement, I was terrified about my first jump! I am deathly afraid of heights and hate roller coasters, but never one to be shown up, I decided to participate so I wouldn’t look like a wimp! My tandem instructor, Ray, was patient, understanding and good hearted, he made me feel as at ease as possible as we climbed to 13,500 feet in the air. My heart pounded in my chest, my face grew flushed, I regretted being the show-off who just couldn’t be outdone! Stepping out of the plane was terrifying, but I followed Ray’s instructions closely and before I knew where I was (and for a few moments I certainly didn’t) we were falling! It felt far different than I could have anticipated, and I don’t even think I realized what was going on. My eyes were tightly closed, and my Ray told me to open them. When I did I was amazed! The world below looked so small, so distant. I felt powerful, alive, amazing! When the chute deployed, Ray got us both settled for a comfortable canopy ride, then gave me a gentle hug, saying to me, “YOU SURVIVED!” He was right, I had survived. As we sailed to the ground, tears fell down my face; cleansing, healing tears of joy, pain, relief. Each one worth more than a thousand words. On the ground, my videographer asked me to shake Ray’s hand, because, “he just saved your life!” Once again, that statement couldn’t have been more true.Blue Skies!

Operation Freefall has empowered and inspired me, as it has many other sexual assault survivors across the country. This bold, daring stand against sexual assault is a testament to the strength in each of us.

This year, Operation Freefall will take place on Saturday, April 25. For more information and for drop zone locations, please visit: http://www.operationfreefall.com/

Blue Skies!
Nicole

Welcome to the Team SOAR blog!

April 1, 2009

Team SOAR began in 2007 as a group of 23 women who span the country, making a difference in our communities by speaking out. True, we are all survivors of sexual crimes, but we aren’t much different than your neighbor, sister, best friend, or mom. To read more about the incredible women of Team SOAR, visit here.

So, why a blog?

• Team SOAR’s blog is meant to be a resource for survivors and their loved ones. While everyone’s story is unique, sharing in each other’s journeys to recovery is empowering and healing.

• We want this to be an educational forum for the public. We want the stigmas associated with victim/survivor to change; the general public needs to realize survivors are real, normal people just like their family, friends, or neighbors. We aren’t merely statistics!

Blog topics will range from projects SOAR is working on to issues that survivors deal with to legislation and current events that we feel passionate about. Got something we should talk about? Be sure to leave it in the comments section. We want to hear from you! Along the way, you’ll get to know our bloggers pretty well.  We are just three of the 23 members of Team SOAR, but we will have guest bloggers along the way to keep things interesting.

I’m Amanda. I work in Human Resources/Recruiting in beautiful Colorado. I’ve been married for almost two years, and we bought our first home last November. I love card-making and cooking and embarrassed as I am to admit this at times, pageants. The heavy stuff: I survived a brutal attack and sexual assault about six years ago while on my daily run. I underwent a lot of brain therapy counseling to get through it, and still deal with side effects of the trauma today. It’s a reality I live with happily, because I’m living.

My motto is “Do Something”, because I believe every person should find a cause they care about or a problem they see in the world and do something about it. That’s one of many reasons I joined SOAR  (This won’t be as the last time I mention ‘do something’ on this blog!)

You’ll get to meet the other lovely bloggers in the following posts. They’re phenomenal women and I’m privileged to know them! We’re kicking off this blog April 1, and it’s no accident. April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Stay tuned for the many events Team SOAR members are participating in this month!

Love to you and yours —- Amanda


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