Power is taking control of your narrative. Power is telling your story to the world in hopes it can begin to help heal not just yourself but hundreds of thousands of people you may never meet. Breanna Stewart, forward for the WNBA's Seattle Storm, has done just that, courageously sharing her trauma of being molested from ages 9 through 11.
I know many young female athletes are listening. Many may have suffered for years like Breanna did. They are watching Breanna not only survive but continue to thrive. Most of all, they are beginning to understand that vulnerability did not kill her; it is helping her live, authentically and bravely, and begin the journey of trying to become whole again.
That is no small feat. Every time Breanna tells her story, she relives her trauma. Trauma is not something of which you can permanently rid yourself. In her essay last October, Breanna herself even said telling her story might have been one of the most difficult things she may ever do.
But her commitment to telling her story in spite of those challenges is not just inspiring but pioneering. She was one of the first female athletes to speak not even a month after #MeToo spread like wildfire across social media. Women athletes already carry significant burdens that their male counterparts do not, like stigma and pay inequality. Standing up to those issues is difficult, professionally and personally. Being one of the first female athletes to discuss sexual abuse is groundbreaking and incredibly important.
I believe Breanna's impact will last long after her illustrious basketball career, which includes winning a gold medal for Team USA and four national championships for Connecticut. She will be an encouraging example for young female athletes who feel powerless to speak up. She will be the living, breathing example for young women of what it looks like in the "after'': that period of time, often for the rest of your life, after declaring yourself a survivor.
The "after'' looks different for every survivor. It is a journey no one can define except the person who has endured the trauma. I don't know the shapes and depths that Breanna's healing will take, but I do know she is committed to that journey. Young girls may look at her—gliding down the court, full speed ahead—with abandon and think: May I live my life with as much strength and courage as Breanna in my own pursuit of wholeness.
Tarana Burke is a civil rights activist from NYC who founded the Me Too movement. Follow her on Twitter @TaranaBurke.
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