“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud, and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories.” - Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes
Over the past year, I have become increasingly aware of the power of my voice, of the resonance of my honesty and my ability to be a champion for others. Wednesdays with Whitney has morphed into this amazingly powerful platform for sharing, and I couldn't be more honored to see all the participation and engagement this segment receives. I love hearing the reactions from my Facebook friends who tune in every week to see what's next. Together, we've helped share and promote so many people's stories and dreams, trials and triumphs.
Today we dove deep into a tough topic. I think my audience was ready and I know I'm ready to start making a bigger impact.
Vanessa McNeal is a powerhouse. At the age of 24, she is already a national speaker, film producer, and business owner. Her critical acclaims range from "Best Director" to "Woman of Tomorrow." She has overcome adversity from a very young age and has turned that adversity into her passion. This woman is already making huge waves with her honesty and bravery and today she shared her story and mission yet again, in hopes of garnering support for her latest project Gridshock.
A little bit about Vanessa:
Vanessa is a survivor. Neglected and continually molested throughout childhood and then sexually assaulted at a college preparatory program at the age of 15, Vanessa was forced to overcame the many faces of rape culture. Despite of all this, Vanessa overcame the shaming and silence that usually surrounds sexual assault victims. She was the first in her family to graduate high school and went on to pursue her bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University. She received her Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa. In 2017, Vanessa founded her production company McNeal Media with the goal of creating social change through the art of storytelling and has experienced much success in her business.
Words from Vanessa:
I took a human sexuality class my Freshman year at ISU. My professor took the time to define sexual violence. She also defined molestation. She followed these definitions by sharing her personal story of being a survivor of sexual violence. This was the first time in my life I had a name for my experience. That moment gave me power. It totally changed my life. I had lived my life thinking I was the only one who had experienced these violent acts. My professor stood in front of our class with no shame and owned her experience. She wasn't a victim. She was a survivor and I wanted to be that too. She gave me the confidence to own my story and stand powerfully in my experience. That's when I started the work of healing.
I spent my college years healing and growing. Then one night a friend asked me, "What do you want your legacy to be?" No one had asked me that question before. The seed was planted. I went home inspired. Already I knew my legacy would be driven by my desire to share my personal story with anyone and everyone I could.
I got into film senior year of college. Film is such a powerful form a storytelling. The realization that I could share I could share my story in documentary form took hold and I started reaching out to local filmmakers. With their help, I was able to share my story 6 months later in documentary form. I was overwhelmed by the support I received. It was in that moment I knew I wanted to create social change through film. I have produced a short film and a feature-length documentary about male survivors since then. I have been able to touch so many people with my story and the stories of others.
Vanessa's next documentary project is a feature length film bringing awareness to the underground sex trafficking industry in Iowa. Thats right folks. Our state is one of the most profitable places for the buying and selling of HUMANS for sex. The stories Vanessa has shared with me are shocking and horrifying. I want to close my ears and run away - but that is exactly the opposite of what I'm going to do. Instead, I'm asking for us to stand together, to demand something better and require consequences for these depraved and disgusting actions. I'm asking you to donate to the creation of Gridshock, a documentary that is sure to turn heads and bring the hammer down on all who participate in this terrible cycle. Thank you in advance for your action. Together, we are stronger. Together, we make change.