Women Don War Paint to Show They’re Warriors in the Fight Against Sexual Abuse

Article by MARIE EKBERG PADILLA | Orange County Register
July 21, 2016 at 11:09 am

She has endured what no one should. But she won’t let it define her.

Instead, being a survivor has made her into a warrior – with a vengeance.

Kiersten Ellis, 28, of Aliso Viejo, who was sexually abused as a child, has launched a war paint campaign along with the Dana Point-based Fighting for Me organization to raise awareness for the cause.

“We hope that survivors will be encouraged to reclaim their voice and seek help when they see they are not alone,” she said. “I’m not allowing the events of my past to dictate my worth nor my path in the future. And I’m here to tell others the same message. That’s what makes me a survivor and a fighter – not a victim.”

The war paint campaign, in which anyone can participate by taking a selfie while wearing red war paint and posting it on social media, will culminate in the Warrior Festival at the Outlets at San Clemente on July 30.

“The goal is to include everyone – survivors or not – because sexual abuse can happen to anyone, and we are all worth fighting for,” she said. “By taking a simple selfie wearing war paint we let victims know: ‘I stand with you, I’m for you and we’re going to fight this together.’”

Ellis is hoping the attention from the campaign makes people get involved by donating their time or finances, educating themselves and their loved ones to help prevent abuse and advocating for the victims whose voices were silenced, she said.

Amanda Zarate, a sexual abuse survivor and executive director of Fighting for Me, a nonprofit offering free professional counseling for abuse survivors, is on the warpath, too.

“The challenge in making people aware of this cause is the sheer massive problem that sexual abuse is,” said Zarate, who lives in Dana Point. “We seriously need banners on every bus, commercials between every show and sexual abuse educators in every school, and that still wouldn’t be enough.”

Knowledge is power, Ellis said. “One of the biggest things people often overlook in regards to sexual abuse is that most crimes occur at the hands of someone the victim knows,” she said. “Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely prevent sexual abuse, but by learning what gives predators easy access to victims you can better protect yourself and your loved ones.”

Also, no one who is a survivor of sexual abuse should have to go to battle alone, Zarate said.

“But with a large army of warriors who stand together to fight for a common cause,” she said.

Ellis agreed.

“Fighting for Me is the nonprofit I wish existed when I was younger and battling the shame, confusion and incredible pain associated with sexual abuse in my own life,” she said.

“I want other survivors to know there are people who are invested in them as individuals and that there is an organization willing to help you and your loved ones get help and healing. This cause means everything to me because it offers what I and so many others didn’t have when we needed it most – solidarity, hope and tools for healing.”

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