Croisant '14 creates community for abuse survivors through We Are HER
MONMOUTH, IL (06/28/2018) For survivors of sexual assault, community plays a critical role in the healing process. That can be observed in the #MeToo movement or the burgeoning website We Are HER, which was founded by Monmouth College alumna Stevie Croisant.
"I think that both #MeToo and HER offer (abuse) survivors community," said Croisant, who graduated from Monmouth in 2014 and now lives in Bozeman, Mont. "And community was the biggest thing for me when I needed to heal, so I can only imagine that many other survivors feel the same way. It's my biggest goal: provide community, whether that's online or in person."
Croisant started We Are HER in 2017. The acronym stands for "healed, empowered, restored." She created the anonymous online community after ending a physically, emotionally and financially abusive relationship.
"In our first year, we helped over 100 survivors," said Croisant, who came to Monmouth from Putnam County High School in Granville, Ill. "I lost count after 100, and I stopped counting in 2018 when we hit the 100 mark."
HER refers survivors to therapists, advocates or women's shelters in their area, or simply "just listens to them," said Croisant.
"I think a lot of survivors just want a stranger who can listen to their story without any judgment and tell them 'It's going to be OK,'" she said. "And so I've found that many survivors want to come forward in that way."
HER and #MeToo
Croisant said that HER and #MeToo are very much related.
"The #MeToo movement has really given a lot of survivors not only courage but hope. I see relatives of mine who have a survivor story and, to this day, they still carry around a lot of shame with them," she said. "#MeToo gives survivors a chance to let go of the shame that's associated with being a victim of abuse or assault."
Although abuse is a national problem, Croisant said that not all parts of the United States are as far along in the discussion.
"We Are HER really did start at a great time, because here in Bozeman, there was already a dialogue about sexual assault that I had never gotten before," she said. "So HER seemed a little ahead of its time to my family back in Illinois. And it's good to see even the smaller, conservative area that I grew up in really understanding #MeToo. And the
beauty of living in 2018 is that we aren't limited to in-person communities. I've connected my survivor in Germany with survivors in Illinois and Montana, and there's hope in knowing you're not alone. I think HER and #MeToo both show that."
Seeing the world at Monmouth
Croisant credits her Monmouth education for helping her "become the person I am today," and also for acquiring the skills to run a successful online community.
"(English professor) Marlo Belschner was the first person who really showed me how to think critically," said Croisant. "I owe so much to her. I was really able to break out of my shell because of the opportunities she gave me. Things like women's rights or equality weren't things people talked about in my tiny hometown. She helped me see the world."
Croisant meant that figuratively, but it is also true in the literal sense. Croisant traveled to Cuba on a trip led by Belschner, who also pushed her to apply for the Chicago Arts Program and attend an immigration reform educational spring break in Mexico.
"She really saw potential in me that I might have missed without her help, and I am forever grateful to her for that," said Croisant.
Former faculty member Jane Jakoubek led an Integrated Studies class about finding one's purpose, which Croisant said was pivotal.
"I really know that running HER and helping survivors is my calling in life, and Professor Jakoubek's class really gave me an understanding that I wouldn't be comfortable working a desk job that didn't give me any fulfillment," she said. "I really needed to feel like I was making a difference. And with HER, I know I'm making a difference. I see it every day. And it's more than just giving back. It's knowing that I'm helping empower other women who can then empower other women so that eventually we can live in a society made up of strong women who own the future."
Croisant is also a big believer in the liberal arts education she received at Monmouth.
"Running We Are HER requires marketing skills, writing skills, public speaking skills and fundraising skills - all things that define what having a liberal arts education is really about," she said. "I feel so well-rounded, and Monmouth really helped with that. Monmouth also helped me know where my skill set lies. I know what skills I don't have and which ones I do."
To that end, Croisant has utilized the nonprofit skills of another Monmouth graduate, Chase Mowery '14, to help get HER off the ground.
Asked what's next for HER, Croisant said she wants to "keep things simple" and that the survivors will ultimately determine where HER goes.
"I am currently working on partnering with organizations across the United States so that I can continue building community," she said. "Community is everything, and the more people who know about HER means the more survivors I have the potential to help. I want to do more public speaking events - I've talked at Monmouth twice so far - and have HER host things like healing yoga events or survivor support groups."