By Arielle Johnson
A lot of the times, people will look at someone they admire and say, “I wish I were in her shoes” or “I would give anything to live his life.”On the outside, they see a person who is successful in every sense of the word; nice car, nice home with beautiful furnishings, nice job, nice clothing and jewelry, face beaten every day, fresh manicure and pedicure and flawless hair. But rarely do they stop to think about the pain and suffering that person may have endured, to be able to stand where they are standing today.
As we go about living our lives from day to day, we are probably unaware, every 9 seconds, a woman is assaulted and 1 in every 5 women has been raped here in the United States. But then again, maybe you are aware, since the media has finally given victims a chance to stand together as they discover it’s okay to be a victim and if you do not wish to share your whole story, you can simply hashtag #MeToo after reading someone else’s.
Sophia Strother, a business consultant and Founder of an organization called, “Empowerment Driven by Knowledge Coalition” and also, producer of a docuseries called, “Our Journey Alive”, was a victim of sexual abuse. She is the woman described above whom many women may envy or wish to be in her shoes. But as she states, “This is literally a lifelong journey of healing and trauma that myself and others have to overcome daily.” She has struggled for years to understand through making the decision to love, that Real love doesn’t hurt.
It took Ms. Strother nearly 20 years to reveal she was a victim of sexual abuse. Her innocence was stripped from her by her biological father when she was 9 years old. Even when her father died, she was reluctant to share details of her abuse with her drug-addicted mother, out of fear of how it would affect her. Today, Sophia’s mother is clean, but Ms. Strother still has a rather strained relationship with her Mom. Her mother keeps putting emphasis on the fact that she is here now for her daughter, and Ms. Strother feels as though her life would be different if she had a “normal” mother. Not only was she a victim of sexual abuse, but also human trafficking at the hands of her mother. That is how desperate her mother was to get her drug fix.
When we think of human trafficking and domestic violence, the images that come to mind are are of other races of women with lighter and whiter hues. However, statistics show the majority of women who fall victim to this type of abuse are African-American. Ms. Strother believes part of the reason is the people behind the motion picture and still cameras doing the recording and snapping the pictures. April Reign, a digital media strategist, and creator of the hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite said it best when she stated the following, “White women have not been as supportive as they could have been of women of color when they experience targeted abuse and harassment.” Other races have more access to tell their story, while we are here going out of our way to handle things on our own.
There are a number of unhealthy ways, victims of abuse can mask the pain of what they have experienced in their lives, in an effort to manage the world they live in. “I have met women who want to cut themselves, or hide themselves from the world by caking their faces with cosmetics. Some women believe if they gain an excessive amount of weight, or allow their bodies to become rail thin by not eating, they will make themselves so unattractive that men will look past them, instead of having a desire to take advantage of them. Also, there are women out there who believe being in a same sex relationship will help them avoid being abused, however, violence and abuse can come from these types of relationships as well,” says Sophia Strother.
When asked what gave her the courage to want to move beyond the fear and pain she suffered during those years where her innocence was lost, Ms. Strother mentioned to us, “I had the unwavering desire of God within me, to live. I was destined to fight the fight. I believed in that calling he had on my life and I never let it get too far away from me. I just feel like it was him period, and that I was going to be a voice for those who are whispering right now or have lost the fight completely.”
Ms. Strother also drew strength from learning about the experiences of other women. One in particular was Oprah Winfrey, whose documentary she came across in her teenage years. After viewing the documentary, she told herself she refused to allow herself to be another statistic.
Sophia, I’m Back is a book Ms. Strother penned to help victims take charge of their lives and find their own strength. The book is based upon her experiences, both positive and negative and even offers poetry pieces which have been written by her too.
In addition to being an author, Ms. Strother is also the recipient of the Yellow Rose of Texas Award. She was commissioned by the Governor’s office on December 1, 2016 after being recognized for her tireless efforts to assist victims of abuse, and co-founding the Central Texas Juneteeth Celebration which highlights the accomplishments of African-Americans in the area.
Working with abused children and women is one of the things Ms. Strother is very passionate about, but she really has the heart and desire to help anyone in need of assistance. Last year, after the devastation Hurricane Harvey heaped on residents of Houston and surrounding areas, Ms. Strother sprang into action, by creating a GoFund Me account and packing a moving truck full of cleaning and building supplies to help people work on restoring their homes. The reason why she mobilized her crew so quickly was because she realized a lot of people were not being served in a timely fashion in many of the communities.
We can continue to praise this woman all day for all she has done within her community and communities in other areas. Honestly, there is not enough space to list all she has done. But rather than end this article with additional organizations and communities she has helped, we are going to thank her for all she has done in her lifetime. We hope she will remember to reach out to us the next time she wants to galvanize a group of individuals, interested in supporting people who are less fortunate than they are, both physically and spiritually. Everyone needs encouragement regardless of their age, and we should never criticize individuals for not extending more of a helping hand to people in need, simple because interpretation of one’s kindness is relative.