[TW: Discussion of sexual violence]
Thursdays in Black (TIB) is a student-led grassroots campaign, working towards a world without rape and violence through advocacy, raising awareness, events, fundraising and supporting. TIB asks people to wear black on Thursdays in solidarity with survivors, demanding a world without violence.
Hi, my name’s Brodie (she/they). I’m 26, Pākehā and studying my masters on young men and sexual consent through the University of Auckland via distance.
I myself am a survivor and went through the criminal justice system. I was one of those rare cases where the person went to prison. After going through that process I realised that there was nothing in place for survivors in terms of a buddy system or support system about how traumatic that experience is. So, I set that up for a while—mahi supporting survivors through the criminal justice system. However, I realised that I’d gone straight from being a survivor to doing this mahi and wasn’t taking care of myself. So, I put that on hold and took care of my mental health for a while.
What does taking care of yourself mean to you?
Brodie: That’s a really interesting question because I definitely was, and am, a person who likes to keep myself busy and work hard all the time. I definitely fell into the trap of putting mental wellbeing on hold because of it. However, I have learnt how to check in with myself and listen to what my body tells me it needs. Which sometimes means having to quit something or, in my case, putting university on hold for a year. And then knowing that that’s not a failure because it’s something you need to do for yourself.
To me, taking care of yourself means being honest. Noticing what your habits are and what you do. Then forcing yourself to take breaks and look after your mental health exactly like you’d look after your physical health.
Lastly, I can’t vouch for therapy enough because it’s literally a life saver once you find a good therapist. I had one or two therapists where it wasn’t entirely helpful and I know it’s an annoying process to find the right one. But once you do it makes a big difference. The stigma around therapy obviously needs to be changed—you don’t have to have something wrong with you to go to therapy. I very much view it in the same vein as having a doctor and general checkups.
In the space of advocacy, how can we make sure we safeguard our wellbeing?
Brodie: The biggest thing is who you surround yourself with and who your support systems are. Whether that’s a partner, friends or family. My step-mother told me about this idea about your different levels and circles of support. You place yourself and your wellbeing in the center. Then, the circle outside of that is your closest support and the outer circle is your acquaintances/other supports. The theory is that all your support should go inwards. For example, if you’ve gone through a trauma and your wellbeing is affected, it’s not about you supporting them. Instead, it’s about focusing that support inwards and surrounding yourself with those people in your circles. It’s super important to know who in your life is in those groups and who you can rely on.
It has always stuck with me that the people in your community are super important. In my experience and what I went through, I still found myself supporting outwards. When really they should’ve been supporting me. So, it’s good to figure out who you want in your inner circle—which will have a massive impact on how you safeguard your wellbeing.
There are obviously individual things you can do, but a lot of healing and support definitely comes from those around you. Especially in the space of advocacy there’s a lot of mutual support from people in the same area of (for example) sexual violence. Turning to people in the space who understand the toll that it takes and the different struggles that come along with doing this type of mahi is really important. Especially in terms of sexual violence advocacy.
How can wāhine empower other wāhine?
Brodie: It’s about uplifting other wāhine with a communal approach instead of an individualistic one. There’s no overarching leader or hierarchical purpose. But instead, it’s about working with other wāhine together and making sure that what you put across in your spaces is empowering, accessible and encouraging. We want to show that women can do the shit that they want to do. I think a part of that empowerment is also uncovering and noticing our own biases. As a Pākehā woman this is something I always have to be mindful of. When it comes to women in leadership roles, there simply isn’t enough [representation]. It’s super important to keep inclusivity in mind and use our space to give other wāhine a platform.
Kia ora e hoa Brodie for sharing your story with us, and your passionate mahi towards a world without sexual violence and rape. Thursdays in Black at UoA is now taking expressions of interest! Find us on Facebook and Instagram and fill out the form if you’re interested in getting involved in either a volunteer and/or organisational capacity.