Success stories come in all types, shapes, and sizes. They take on different meanings from person to person, and equally unique, but one thing that they all have in common…they are inspiring.
When we talk about survivors of trauma, the success stories are especially amazing because of the overwhelming circumstances that each has had to endure and overcome. Childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, narcissistic abuse, toxic relationships, emotional and physical abuse, the list goes on and on with each offering its own set of challenges.
On that topic of unique and inspiring survivors, I’m especially honored to have had the opportunity to chat with Sheri Poe; Entrepreneur, Speaker, Advocate, Consultant, Coach, Mother, and a Survivor of Sexual Assault. She is also a Domestic Violence Certified Mentor, on the Board of Directors at the Sojourn House and an advisor with CurrentSolutions.co, a survivor sharing platform.
After being violently raped as a college freshman, and further suffering from victim blaming, I became a silent sufferer of depression, PTSD, and bulimia. I began to heal, decades later, through therapy, meditation, sharing with loved ones, and publicly telling my story.
Sheri reached out to me through email not long ago, and wanted to come on Surviving My Podcast, to share her story of survival. After reading more about Sheri, her platform, and speaking with her, I knew that it was a no-brainer to invite her onto the show. Her message, shared openly and with such passion, is so needed now more than ever, and I’m excited to share it with you.
For over 20 years, Sheri has traveled the country speaking at college campuses, to inspire survivors that being a victim of sexual assault was not their fault and that they are never alone. To encourage each person who listens, to not be ashamed to reach out, and to reach out for help.
During our conversation, Sheri talks openly about how a seemingly normal day in college turned into a tragedy as she suddenly found herself a lone in a car, at the mercy of someone who would change her life forever. She details the experience, along with the emotions and thoughts that ran through her mind that day, not even knowing for sure if she would make it out alive.
He told me that if I didn’t do everything he told me to do, that he was going to kill me…and I had absolutely no reason to think that he wouldn’t kill me.
She also shares how in the wake of those events, those whom she went too for help, ended up turning the entire situation back on to her, and making it out to be her fault. This feeling is something that many survivors can relate too, as all too often the victim ends up shouldering the blame. A feeling that no survivor should ever have to endure, and something that Sheri works hard at to change in her advocacy work.
What catapulted Sheri into the life of being an advocate, was back in the late 1980’s, when she founded Ryka, a women’s athletic footwear company which is still around today. Being the CEO of a multi-million dollar company, she found herself with a platform to be able to reach countless survivors on a large-scale, and decided to publicly share her story as a survivor of sexual assault and create the Ryka Rose Foundation. Now the R.O.S.E Fund (Regaining One’s Self Esteem), it was created to break the silence and the cycle of domestic violence.
For Sheri, a driving force that still fuels her advocacy work now; is that even in this modern age there is still a taboo, a stigma, surrounding this topic. And for that matter, a stigma surrounding survivors of childhood trauma and just about anything related to sexual abuse.
The statistics are staggering and unfortunately have not gotten any better: 1 in 4 women on college campuses are sexually assaulted during their college careers, and 1 in 5 women overall have experienced sexual assault in their lives.
In this day and age, which so many resources available online, on college campuses, and in local communities, there are still countless survivors who are living in shame, and afraid to reach out for help. So many have been told over and over that being a victim was their fault. Too many still today, suffer in silence and shame, having never told a single soul of the events that they experienced. Sheri, and others like her, are on a mission to reach as many as possible with the message of hope and support.
I asked Sheri how well her message is received by college students, and thankfully, she tells us that it is very well received indeed. There is always a long line of students eager to talk to her afterwards, thanking her for being such an inspiration for sharing her story. As she tells us, many share that they have never told anyone what happened, although the majority of those that stay afterwards are women, there are guys and faculty members who also speak up and want to learn more of how they can receive help.
We also discuss her coaching practice, where she works as a Sexual Assault Recovery Coach. Having lived through the experience herself, and spending much of her life not only in her own healing journey, but also in helping others begin and continue theirs, Sheri is able to provide her clients with the support they need and want, so they can move forward in their lives.
I was inspired as I talked with her on the podcast and I hope that as you listen, you will be inspired as well. Thank you so much Sheri for joining me, and I look forward to working with you in the future as we all strive to unite and reach the world; empowering survivors to no longer feel alone, and never again be ashamed to reach out and ask for help.
Images of Sheri Poe, used with her permission. Pictures courtesy of Pixabay. Social Media images created by Matt Pappas.