Those who follow the Brave Educator podcast likely noted when a week ago, June 15, 2020 there was no Monday episode. I called it "taking a week off," but the truth is, the episode was already recorded. Not unlike the poem or prose I skip over in memoirs about the sexual violence, the rape, that I survived as a child, it's sometimes easier to just try to forget. I met Amita Swadhin back in January 2016 at USC during an Education Summit I directed. It was the first time in an education space I heard someone talk about sexual trauma. It was uncomfortable, but it was among a few moments when I felt I'd encountered someone more brave than me; and so it pushed me to consider those strategic silences I held onto. I could talk about being queer, about being HIV positive, about racial trauma...but not that. The reality is that it's still scary; and the scars that the experience had on me as a young child, has been not just a part of my struggle, but my story. I'm not who I am today without it. In Season 1, Episode 7, Amita and I talk about why the sexual violence we survived as children, far from making us less capable as professionals, makes us better at what we do. It's 10:15 pm on the day I generally share the new podcast first in the morning. Maybe I'm still nervous about releasing it. Perhaps a part of me fears what exposing this may mean for how others view me going forward. Maybe they will see me as all the more brave. Maybe they will understand what it feels like to be on a life-long journey ... to be protected.
Amita Swadhin is an educator, storyteller, activist and consultant dedicated to fighting interpersonal and institutional violence against young people. Her commitments and approach to this work stem from her experiences as a genderqueer, femme queer woman of color, daughter of immigrants, and years of abuse by her parents, including eight years of rape by her father. They are a frequent speaker at colleges, conferences and community organizations nationwide, and a consultant with over fifteen years of experience in nonprofits serving low-income, immigrant and LGBTQ youth of color in Los Angeles and New York City. Amita has been publicly out as a survivor of child sexual abuse since she interned at the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women in 1997. In 2016, Amita received a two-year Just Beginnings Collaborative Fellowship, allowing them to work full-time to end child sexual abuse and to help survivors heal. From March 2012 to September 2015, Amita was the Los Angeles Executive Director of Peer Health Exchange, a national nonprofit empowering teens to make healthy decisions. In the fall of 2015, they were the Interim Executive Director of API Equality-LA, whose mission is to build power in the Asian and Pacific Islander community to achieve LGBTQ equality and racial and social justice. Amita has held positions at Legal Momentum, Global Kids, Make the Road NY, Sadie Nash Leadership Project and Kingsborough Community College (CUNY), and served as the final Board Chair of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition, a national organization advocating for and with LGBTQ youth. Amita is also a published author. Their writing has been featured on The Feminist Wire and The Huffington Post, and in the anthologies Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence (AK Press, 2014) and Queering Sexual Violence (Magnus Books, 2016). She holds a Master’s in Public Administration degree from New York University, where she was a Catherine B. Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.