'Through Footsteps To Inspire, I want to leave more than physical footprints on the beaches I run on. I hope inspire a lasting legacy to support survivors of sexual violence, and to be an example that is possible to survive and thrive after a life trauma.'
I'm a South African born Australian who sees herself as a global citizen. I'm currently running 16 kilometres of beach in every country of the world with the goal to peacefully end sexual violence.
This heroic project began in response to my own personal trauma. In 1999, while living in Paris, France as a foreign student, I was brutally attacked, raped and left for dead. My rapist was caught 10 years later through DNA. What followed was a long, expensive struggle through the French justice that only ended in October 2015. I was brutalized by a system that was meant to protect me. In France, rape is not seen as a crime against the state, therefore if the victim does not prosecute, the perpetrator walks free. My story of survival lasted 16 years, and why I run 16 kilometers.
I chose to share my story openly in 2014 and was surprised by how many survivors reached out to me from all over the world - women, men, children and vulnerable individuals. Each one with a different story of sexual violence and most breaking their silence for the very first time. Many were burdened with guilt, shame, fear and unhealed trauma. I realized that there was no stereotype when it came to sexual violence and so many people around the world, even in countries with ‘adequate services’ are still suffering in silence.
I knew I had to do something to change this and so began Footsteps to Inspire.
On 18 July 2016, the anniversary of my rape and coincidently Mandela Day, I set out to run more than 3700 kilometres of beach across 230 countries with the vision to peacefully end sexual violence.
I had no idea what to expect when I started out. No one else in the world has created this kind of movement before.
Nothing about this journey is easy. Every day, I hear stories of horror. I find myself in really dangerous countries where I have to stay safe. My budget is now non-existant because I have run out of money. But none of this will stop me from reaching women, men and children affected by sexual violence in every country of the world.
I've already run in 50 countries, which 21% of the way through, there’s still 180 more countries to go. I can’t even imagine what I will see and hear by the time I finish.
People often ask me how I can do this? Don’t I just want to put my story behind me and forget about it.
I can’t. It is part of who I am now. I don’t see this as negative.
I get to choose how I let my trauma impact my life. Either we see it as a lifetime of suffering or I move through it and it becomes something else. It becomes something that makes me stronger. It becomes something that I can now use to help heal the world.
Footsteps To Inspire is leaving a lasting impact and my efforts have started receiving wide spread recognition. I was invited to speak at TEDx twice. Elle Magazine nominated me as one of fifty incredible women shaping the continent of Africa. And, the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism has named me as their second Ambassador for Peace.
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