I think being brave is about speaking truth. It's about demanding change. It's not necessarily about telling your own personal experience with abuse.
One of the biggest challenges with the issue of sexual violence against children, adolescents and youth, is that there's still so much stigma and shame associated with it.
We know, from data, that most people who experience sexual violence in childhood or adolescence actually never tell anyone. They carry it alone and internalize it. That creates isolation, loneliness and all kinds of mental health issues. It impacts young people's ability to go to school, to succeed, to thrive.
A big lesson for me was that first I needed support, I needed to work on my own issues and process my trauma. Then, and only after a long time, I decided to share my own personal experience with sexual violence publicly. It is hard when you start sharing things that are so intimate on a big stage; it exposes you in a way, but what it also does is it makes other people feel less alone. The power of our Brave Movement has been from more and more people coming together and realizing, ‘wait a minute, I'm not alone, this wasn't about me or something specific to my context, this is actually happening to youth everywhere, in every context’.
Part of why I started the Brave Movement was because I feel I have a responsibility to give back, and to make things easier to those that are coming after me. I wanted to create a space so others can have less stigma and less discrimination if they come forward, and where everyone can come together, regardless of their own personal experience, to demand change.
If we can come together, we can be powerful agents to change what's happening. The Brave Movement is around coming together, not feeling alone, breaking down stigma and discrimination, and working with allies - because it shouldn't just be on the survivors, allies need to step up too and speak out on these issues - and together, demanding the kinds of changes we need to see - from institutions, from leaders, from organizations - to stop this violence from happening.
When we launched last year we organized all around the world, and were able to push the G7 - the seven most powerful countries in the world, for the very first time, at the highest level of leadership - to put the issue of sexual violence against children, youth and adolescents on their agenda, especially when it comes to online exploitation and abuse that has just been growing exponentially.
It really showed us that if you come together and if you believe in what you're doing you can really have an impact. It’s always amazing to me that when you have a passion and a commitment to an issue, very little funding can go a long way, so I'm excited about what's next.
I invite everyone who cares about this issue to become a member, to define our agendas together. The power of having a community and knowing that there are people out there who can understand and empathize with your experience is so important.
When we're thinking about big issues it's really easy to feel powerlessness in finding a way to help. But there are ways and there are paths to make a difference, as an individual and through the power of a movement that can really make a huge difference across the world.
I think being brave is about speaking truth. It's about demanding change. It's not necessarily about telling your own personal experience with sexual violence - that comes with a lot of challenges and you have to be really well prepared to do that.
As part of the Movement we're encouraging people to stand up for the issue. Whether or not you want to share your own experience is a very personal decision and needs a lot of thought, because it does come with some negative consequences. People are not always kind, and we feel it - especially when you're demanding these kinds of changes from very powerful actors.
We have to be prepared because there are some powerful people out there that want the world to stay just as it is. It's going to take a lot of courage and a lot of us working together as a community to go out there, raise our voices and demand the kinds of changes that we want to see.
Self-care must remain front and center, especially for movements like ours, dealing with so much trauma. I've seen it over and over again: amazing young people who try to create change but then they burn out and then we lose them. So pace yourself, take good care of yourself, so that you can keep changing the world.