Speak Truth to Sexual Violence
Nominated by Lara Lacombe
Shayla Swift was a long-distance runner. But for a woman in Texas, being a long-distance runner means often facing sexual harassment every time one goes for a run. Once, after being followed by a van while running, a shaken Shayla began to question if she should quit doing something she loved.
But when her friend and jogging partner vanished while out on a run, Shayla was shaken to her core. It could have been her. It could have been any woman. This time, she stopped running for a long while.
After moving to Lincoln, Nebraska, for grad school, a friend approached Shayla about organizing a Lincoln SlutWalk—an annual walk, taking place across the world, protesting those who blame sexual violence on the victim rather than the perpetrator. Spurred on by the memory of her vanished friend, Shayla agreed. But after recognizing that the only people hearing their message were the ones already taking part, Shayla knew it was just preaching to the choir. She was determined to find a new way to spread their message—to change the conversation.
As the executive director of Speak Truth to Sexual Violence, Shayla has dedicated this grassroots organization to preventing sexual violence and increasing awareness through education. Knowing that true social change and empowerment for victims of sexual violence only comes when society meets the issue head-on, Speak Truth attempts to instigate the conversation by educational means through its online presence, school discussions and community events.
However, while many people agree with Shayla’s message when on the phone or online, getting them to discuss the issues of sexual and domestic violence, as well as relationship abuse, in person and in public, is one of Speak Truth’s greatest challenges. Shayla knows that the more people who show up, the more barriers will be broken down. The whole point of Speak Truth is to change the conversation, but to do that they need everyone who supports the cause to show up and start talking.