Women sharing stories of sexual assaults, hoping to empower others

Seven women delivered their messages at “Triumph Over Trafficking: Survivors of Sex Trafficking and Sexual Abuse,” presented July 20 at Alamo Drafthouse in Tempe by Amplify Voices, a nonprofit founded by Tempe resident Deb Shapiro and New York City-based Akhilanda Women’s Foundation.

Until last spring, Amanda Schneider could count on four fingers the greatest moments of her life: her wedding day and the birth of her three sons.

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Schneider added a fifth best day when on a Scottsdale theater stage she revealed the raw details of being drugged and raped at a work conference in 2016. And, most importantly, after years of shame, fear, self-doubt and anger, of being healed and transformed.

“It sounds odd to say, but I had never stepped into my power in that way,” said Schneider, a Tempe woman. “In a sexual assault, you lose all of your power. But in that moment in March, I was standing in my power.”

Schneider was among seven women who delivered their messages at “Triumph Over Trafficking: Survivors of Sex Trafficking and Sexual Abuse.”

It was presented by Amplify Voices, a nonprofit founded by Tempe resident Deb Shapiro, and New York City-based Akhilanda Women’s Foundation.

The recorded program was was screened at Alamo Drafthouse in Tempe on July 20.

The survivors participated in a panel discussion following the screening. Their experiences are shocking, sad and unimaginable, Schneider acknowledged. But because these crimes still are shrouded in secrecy, they must be shared so that healing and change can happen, she said.

“Unfortunately, it is a reality for far more people that we even know about,” she said. “But even if just one person receives permission to acknowledge and feel what they experienced, or if one person is compelled through discomfort or anger to get involved or be more aware, it’s worth it.”

In 2017, Shapiro created a speaker-development experience called DEBx to help emerging speakers use their voices. About a year ago, the painful story of a friend, who was sexually trafficked and never talked about it, prompted Shapiro to develop a program for victims. She founded Amplify Voices last year to discover and spread messages of those who historically are silenced, misunderstood or oppressed.

Shapiro immediately heard from women around the country, and seven of them started a 90-day virtual training to learn to process and write their stories in a safe, positive atmosphere. The program has been shown in watch parties on social media, and “people are in awe of these women for their courage and their transformation,” she said.

One of the goals of Amplify Voices is to show that sex trafficking and sexual assault don’t occur only in other countries or in someone else’s families.

In 2020, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children received more than 17,000 reports of possible child sex trafficking. Reports have been logged from all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and in every type of community.

More than 1 in 3 women experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetime, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in 3 female rape victims experienced it for the first time between ages 11 and 17; 1 in 8 said it occurred before age 10, the CDC report.

More information: amplifyvoices.io







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