Venkayla Haynes | Know Your IX, ItsOnUs, Biden Foundation Advisory to End Violence Against Women

Venkayla Haynes | Know Your IX, ItsOnUs, Biden Foundation Advisory to End Violence Against Women
 
 

ON GETTING TO WHERE SHE IS TODAY…

I got where I am today through determination, strength, courage, and perseverance. I didn’t have it easy going into this work, a lot of folks don’t. Most of the time going into this work comes from the pain and trauma of dealing with sexual violence or any other type of violence. I’ve experienced sexual abuse as a child, sexual assault in college, and a domestic violence relationship that left me dealing with a lot of issues that I’ve often pushed in the back of my mind and ultimately, had a negative impact on me and the way I navigated throughout society. When I decided to speak up, it was a decision that took years to make, and for me, I’m glad I did because it has given me the opportunity to help others.

ON A TYPICAL DAY OF WORK…

A typical day of work is a lot for me because I work with different organizations and politicians, in addition to doing work in my community - so it kind of varies depending on the day, nothing is ever the same. Often times the work gets stressful because you’re the “go-to” person for a lot of folks, especially survivors because they don’t feel that they have any other safe and supportive space to go and that is something this movement has to work on.

ON THE TOOLS AND RESOURCES SHE’D RECOMMEND…

Within my work I always direct survivors to resources that are specific to them and organization that best cater to their needs based on their identity because there is not just one type of survivor, what works for some may not work for others. A few organizations with amazing resources are Know Your IX, Black Women’s BluePrint, BYP100, The Trevor Project, Black Women's Health Imperative, Sister Song, National Women's Law Center, and the Audre Lorde Project.

ON HER IDOLS AND WHERE SHE FINDS INSPIRATION…

I absolutely love Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer. Ida B. Wells is one of the first Black women I learned about through research when I first started doing work around sexual violence. Growing up and not learning about her, not learning about the role of Black women in the anti-violence movement, in general, was disappointing. From her anti-lynching campaign to protect Black men and speaking out against white supremacy, advocating for sexual assault survivors and creating spaces for Black women to tell their stories about sexual violence at the hands of white men, and so much more - she inspired me to get involved in this movement and I will always recognize her work in anything that I do. With Fannie Lou Hamer, learning about her work to help her community in Mississippi, I admire her strength and determination throughout her involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Her work around civil rights, especially voting rights, and the obstacles she encountered to fight against racial segregation and injustice constantly reminds me of how far we have come and that there is still more work to be done. Both of these women have inspired me to get involved in movement work and continue to speak out against systems of oppression that harm marginalized communities. I would say another idol of mine is Michelle Obama, I’ve always admired her. For me personally, seeing a Black woman in the White House mattered, representation did matter. It let me know that nothing is impossible, and I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. She handles situations with grace, continues to ignore negativity, and stays focused on the end goal and that is something I respect.

ON WHAT WAKES HER UP IN THE MORNING AND KEEPS HER UP AT NIGHT…

Honestly, my dreams wake me up in the morning. I’m not referring to my dreams when I close my eyes, it's the things that I hope to do. I have a lot of things I want to accomplish in life, a lot of things I am passionate about. When I go to bed my dreams are all I can think about, I’m always planning things out in my head, always coming up with new ideas, and I’m determined to continue to work towards those goals. What keeps me up at night is wondering if things will ever get better or will I ever be good enough. Not just for the movement but my personal life as well, there are some days where my depression and anxiety get the best of me and I think that certain goals are unattainable.

ON THE MOST UNEXPECTED ASPECT OF HER CAREER…

I think traveling to D.C. to meet with the Department of Education, under the Trump Administration to discuss Title IX. It was something that was definitely unexpected but a lot needed to be discussed on the way many of their members viewed sexual violence and their concerns regarding Title IX. Sexual violence is a non-partisan issue and many were ignoring accountability and transparency.

WORDS TO LIVE BY…

Words to live by: “Don’t complain about results you didn’t get from work you didn’t do”

ON HER BIGGEST CAREER ACCOMPLISHMENT…

Beating #HB51 which was a mandatory reporting bill for survivors of sexual violence in the state of Georgia, it was amazing being a part of a group of student organizers who worked together to fight against this harmful legislation and win. I would also say working with college administrations to work around issues of sexual violence on campuses and also speaking at Harvard about sexual violence, organizing work, and Title IX.

ON BEING AN ENTREFEMMEUR…

Being an entrefemmeur to me means being unapologetic in all that you do. Being unafraid to challenge those in power, challenging systems of oppression, and going against societal norms to get the results that you want. Continuing to be yourself, be proud of who you are, and what you can bring to the table. Your voice matters.

To learn more about Venkayla, you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.