New PAVE Ambassador – Merri Dee

PAVE is proud to announce that Chicago broadcasting legend Merri Dee is our newest PAVE Ambassador. This past week, Ms. Dee was given the honor of being appointed by IL Governor Quinn as the Human Rights Commissioner!

“When you think that you are all alone and no one understands what you have been through, PAVE is here for you.  PAVE offers light, love, direction, guidance and a reason to go on.  When you are a PAVE member you have joined a major, national advocacy group of supporters.  PAVE advocates for you where you are, on college campuses, in Washington.  A PAVE membership is not a card to carry, its an actionable step that you take for yourself – that you genuinely share with others. Do something powerful! Join PAVE now!”

About Merri Dee…

Merri Dee is a nationally recognized motivational speaker and a highly popular panelist, moderator, and professional mentor. As president of MD Communications, she helps organizations develop strategies on media relations, marketing and public relations, community relations, and fundraising. In addition, Merri Dee provides individuals with professional and life coaching assistance.

As a celebrated motivational and keynote speaker, Merri Dee infuses humor and warmth into her real-life stories that inspire individuals and employees to rise above challenges and seize control of their destinies. She has presented to audiences from a few hundred to more than a thousand. Clients for her keynote addresses include companies in the Fortune 100 such as AT&T, Kraft, and Motorola. Merri Dee’s inspirational keynote topics include:

– Communication and Leadership Skills

– Increasing Productivity

– The Will to Survive Fear and Pain

– Successful Fundraising

– Supporting Military Families

– From One Caregiver to Another

– Surviving the Senior Years (Helping Your Seniors Live Their Best Lives)

– Women: Empowered

– Violence Prevention

As an award-winning broadcaster, Merri Dee has been a trailblazer in both radio and television. She has served as a newscaster, talk show host, and staff announcer. Later she served as Director of Community Relations at superstation WGN-TV and as advisor to other Tribune owned TV stations. She has hosted countless parades, telethons, television specials and has served as an emcee and host for a variety of organizations.

For more than 30 years, Merri Dee co-hosted the nationally syndicated “UNCF Annual Evening of Stars,” raising tens of millions of dollars for college scholarships. She leveraged her relationship with the McCormick Foundation to raise more than $31 million for Chicago Children’s Charities. However, her efforts extend beyond raising money. She supports organizations that address critical social issues such as adoption and foster care, violence prevention, education, and women’s issues.

An impassioned advocate for violence prevention, Merri Dee arrives at this issue from personal experience. Many lifelong Chicagoans still remember her heart-wrenching story of being kidnapped at gunpoint, shot, and left for dead by an assailant. Given last rites twice, overcoming paralysis and blindness, Merri Dee survived and became an inspiration to others overcoming various traumas. The account of her ordeal was the subject of several network programs, including 60 Minutes, the Phil Donahue Show, and Oprah.

This life-changing experience led her to being the force behind the Illinois General Assembly’s passage of the nation’s first Victim’s Bill of Rights. Illinois’ legislation has served as the model for similar laws throughout the United States. While Merri Dee continues to speak forcefully about violence prevention, she also provides her expertise to CeaseFire, a highly successful evidence-based national violence prevention organization.

Merri Dee is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Among these are:

– Silver Circle Award, Academy of TV Arts & Sciences

– President’s Award, United Negro College Fund

– Hall of Fame Induction, National Association of Black Journalists

– Adoption Excellence Award, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

– National Women in Film

She has received honorary doctorate degrees from Tougaloo College and Lewis University.

Merri Dee was appointed to serve as an official U.S. Army Ambassador. She was appointed by former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to serve on the Mayor’s Council on Women’s Issues, and by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to The Serve Illinois Commission, a volunteer advocacy delegation. Merri Dee is the Illinois State President of AARP, which has 1.8 million members. Merri Dee has recently been appointed a Commissioner, Ill. Human Rights Commission.


Through the Eyes of a Survivor Named Kendra

Many survivors find it extremely hard to open up about their own rape or sexual assault personal experience and the way that they decide to deal with the situation is different for each person. However, after talking to an amazing sexual assault survivor named Kendra Ely, you (as a reader) can get an exclusive insight to how she felt when she first came forward after approaching RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network) for advice and how they helped her through the healing process. Kendra openly shared about how she felt when she first came forward.

“I was always scared and had lost my sense of security when I first came forward. It was hard for me to do it but RAINN really helped me feel comfortable about doing it and were very supportive to me at the time.” – Kendra

What Kendra was feeling at the time, is a normal part of the healing process for any survivor to go through when coming forward. The possible reason for this; is that sometimes it feels easier for a survivor to stay quiet because it is less painful and a way for them to try and forget it ever happened to them.

“To live as a sexual assault survivor I feel so ashamed. I feel people can see right through me. I feel so dirty.” – Kendra

This is a common type of coping mechanism that many survivors do to protect themselves from not only pain (both emotionally and physically) but an even bigger factor, is also because they are scared. Reasons for being scared are different for each individual survivors but for Kendra, she expressed that when she came forward, she was scared about what it will do to her as a person, how it will affect her life with future intimate relationships, how people will interact with her after finding out, and whether she can trust people especially men at all.

“After a traumatic event, it is typical to have feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, making it difficult to adjust or cope for some time afterwards. In particular, survivors of sexual violence may experience severe feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” – RAINN

No matter how badly beaten or barely showing any physical damage that is seen after surviving a rape or/and sexual assault encounter, the person attacked is always going to be scared and fearful. As soon as someone has been attacked, they instantly lose their power of control because the predator has automatically taken the control off them. Because of this, some survivors like Kendra start to feel insecure with themselves as a person and constantly put them-selves down in a negative way.

“Because your personal boundaries were invaded when you were young by someone you trusted and depended on, you may have trouble understanding that you have the right to control what happens to you.” – RAINN

By having a great organization like RAINN there for assistance as a helpful support system for survivors like Kendra, they can help get survivors past this negative way of thinking. It is the support that RAINN provides, the encouragement they share, and the hope they give to survivors, that give people like Kendra the hope and strength to overcome negative thoughts and start to move forward to thinking in a positive way.

“In most instances, the survivor never discussed the abuse with others while it was occurring. In fact, many survivors do not remember the abuse until years after it has occurred, and may never be able to clearly recall it. Usually, after being triggered by a memory, this individual learns how, as an adult, to deal with the effects of the abuse. It is important to speak with someone, whether it is a friend or counsellor, about the abuse and past and current feelings.” – RAINN

Once a survivor has their mind set on speaking in a negative way about themselves after being victimized, it is hard to go back to how they were without any help. Unfortunately this happens a lot because it is used as a defence mechanism as a way to prevent themselves (as a survivor) from getting hurt again. To a survivor like Kendra, it seems like the easiest answer and most logical choice because how they feel on the inside is generally what they are showing (physically) on the outside too. Survivors like Kendra do this because they do not feel beautiful but dirty instead as Kendra explained earlier. Just like many other survivors, they try to look less attractive in public to avoid sending out extra physical attention because it is a way of protecting themselves from being violated again. However with the help from an inspirational organization like RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest, National Network) they can help teach survivors like Kendra learn how to regain back control of their life and start to feel worthy as a person they truly are.

“It feels like I go through phases. Some days I feel like it’s all I think about and other days I doubt whether or not it even happened. I don’t feel great on the inside most of the time, especially when all I can think about is what happened to me. – Kendra

Whether it has been twenty years or a few days after being victimized, every survivor copes with it in a different way but no matter what way, the one thing that is for certain is that no survivor is at fault for what happened to them and that they are worthy. It is perfectly normal to be scared after being raped or sexually assaulted and whether you come forward straight away or twenty years later, it is never too late to get help. Organizations like RAINN are always going to be there to help and support those survivors who need it so for any reader who needs someone to talk to, please know that you can go to RAINNs online hotline at any time.

Just know: You are never alone, and it is never too late to get the help you need and deserve!

To contact RAINN:

Phone: 1 800 656 HOPE
Hotline: RAINN’s 24 Hour Hotline

PAVE:My Stories: Anonymous

PAVE My Stories: Anonymous
The beginning of my sophomore year of high school, I met the most amazing boy. I had just broken up with a long-term boyfriend; he was sweet and funny. However, due to circumstance, I didn’t get the chance to date him until the very end of junior year. Once we did start dating, I was so happy because no one had ever treated me as kindly as he did.

A few months into the relationship was when I first knew something was wrong. He started being mean, he wouldn’t let me hang out with my girl friends, and basically forbade me from speaking to my guy friends. I didn’t want to break up with him for this, but these were my friends from elementary school. At the same time, I didn’t know if anyone would love me if we broke up.

It kept getting worse. He had no respect for me, constantly made me cry, never let me be with my friends, but was able to do whatever he wanted, while I sat alone at home on Friday and Saturday nights. I lost my virginity to him a few months into our relationship. After about a year was when it started getting bad. Growing up in a small town, rape had one meaning: when a stranger forced a girl into having sex with him. Rape didn’t happen between acquaintances, friends, significant others; if rape happened, it was usually the girl’s fault. Now, after a year of dating, when we had sex, it HURT. He’d be forceful and rough, and even when I cried and asked him to stop, he wouldn’t. He would yell at me to shut up and let him finish, and afterwards, would leave me to myself to finish crying while he went and played video games. Time and again, I went through this. It was stuck in my head that this was normal. He would be so sweet during the day when we were around other people, but by ourselves, it was different. I didn’t think I could leave; we had plans to get married, his whole family was so excited about it. I was so afraid he would hurt me if I tried to break up, and he made me feel like no one would ever love me. I wasn’t pretty, I was too needy, I was too demanding, I didn’t do enough for him. As much as I loved him, because I did, it was never good enough.

For another 3 or 4 months, sex was like this. Consensual at first, forceful at the end, with me feeling degraded and left alone to cry. I had no one to talk to, and no one noticed that I wanted to die. But because I was taught that rape was a stranger on a girl, I didn’t do anything. One night, everything changed and I knew it was wrong. We were alone for the night, and started fooling around. I didn’t want to have sex, but it started anyway. I changed my mind, and asked him to stop. He took my shoulders, slammed me down on the floor, and held me while I cried and screamed. The pain was horrible, and after he finished, left me to go watch TV. I couldn’t stop crying; I didn’t know what I had done to deserve this, I didn’t know what I could do right anymore to make him stop doing this to me. I kept crying and screaming, and eventually he yelled at me to shut the f*** up, to go downstairs and go to bed. And I did, because I was too afraid to leave him to go home. Home was a half hour away, and it was so late at night, I didn’t want to scare my parents. I broke up with him shortly after this. He tried so hard to get me back, but I have wonderful friends who held my hand while I tried to deal. I didn’t realize that rape could happen between significant others until almost a year after I broke up with him; I’m still dealing with the aftermath. I have severe anger problems, I have trust issues, and still, sometimes I’m afraid to have sex with my boyfriend of almost two years. All the memories still haunt me, but talking about it and dealing with the memories head-on has helped. I don’t know if mentally or emotionally I’ll be okay; but I’ve made progress. Enough that I can make it through the day without thinking about it and without worrying that he’ll find me.

Do you have a story to share? Please email your stories to with “My Stories” in the subject line.

PAVE My Stories: Brigid

PAVE My Stories: Brigid
It was a Saturday night, Valentine’s Day, a friend and I had decided to go out and get tanked to celebrate how miserable we were as we had both recently broken up with boyfriends. We went to a local “meat market” and were hanging around flirting and drinking and pretty much still feeling miserable.  I ran in to a couple guys I used to know from a restaurant where I had worked for years, and they immediately recognized me too. We shouted back and forth over the music, then one asked me to dance so I did.  It was a typical club scene, drinking and dancing, whatever.  My friend had run in to her ex with another girl and wanted to leave, so Dude said he would drive me home.  I agreed.

He drove me home and, boy I was DRUNK.  He said he had some pot, we smoked some, which immediately made me puke.  I was so embarrassed and he was really sweet about it. He held my hair, brought me water, told me over and over it was ok, we have all been here.  When I told him I had to go to bed he asked if he could stay, didn’t even get under the covers because he didn’t want to freak me out. A gentleman!

He called several days later in the afternoon to see if I wanted to hang out.  I told him I had been fighting a nasty cold for a couple days, so maybe the weekend would be better. He said ok, fine, yeah.  After meeting my family for dinner for my nephew’s birthday, I came straight home, feeling ill and tired and wanting nothing more than my bed.  When I arrived home there were all these utility crews in the parking lot – apparently there was a gas leak of some sort.  I talked to one of the guys and he said it was fine for me to be home, they would let me know if the situation changed. Ok, good.

So I went inside and took some Nyquil because I felt like crap. I crashed immediately (you know the way Nyquil does that).  Some time later, maybe an hour or two, I heard the phone ring.  It was Dude. I didn’t answer, I was too sleepy.

A bit later I woke to this insanely urgent knock on my door.  It was after 1 AM. I was confused like, “WTF?” and then I remembered the gas leak.  Oh no!  So I got up and answered the door.  It was Dude.  He said he had tried to call but I hadn’t answered so he just came by, was that ok?  I told him I was really tired and didn’t feel very well. He said ok, but he had left the pot the other night (indeed he had, I had it stashed) and could he get it?  I agreed, turned to get it from the hiding spot in the bedroom.

He followed, teased me about my pajamas, “What are you wearing?” with a laugh as he gave the waistband of the shorts a little tug. I got the pot, handed it to him, and then pretty much collapsed in the bed.  I guess I thought he would just leave, but he offered to give me a back rub “to help me relax” (because I obviously needed that) and urged me to turn over. I sleepily did.

So, I was sacked out face down on the mattress, half asleep, he was rubbing my back and it was nice and cozy when all of a sudden he yanked my shorts and undies off – one fell swoop! I jerked to sit up but he pushed my face back into the bed, catching my temple on the table at the head of the bed pretty hard.  He straddled me, and I could hear him undoing the belt and the jeans in a frenzy.  I thought HELL NO! and tried to roll over, in the process he got a hold of my right arm and managed to get it pinned under my back as I rolled, torquing out my shoulder pretty good. I tried to push him or maybe hit him with my one free arm, but he grabbed and held it fast, then with his other arm elbowed me in the head. I tried to squirm out from under him kicking and such but only succeeding in twisting my shoulder further – I thought for sure it was going to just pop.  He was using his knees to pry my legs apart while holding my head against the bed by smashing my face with the palm of his hand, I was struggling too much for that to work very well so he planted his knee into my sternum good and hard (knocking the breath from me) and then punched me a few times in the head.

I saw his face then – he had this sick grin I will never ever EVER forget and that was the moment I realized a) he was clearly enjoying himself and b) I wasn’t going to win – he was going to beat the hell out of me and fuck me anyway. So I just stopped fighting.

So, he then raped me. At one point he actually asked me if I was enjoying myself.  At some point he was done, rolled off me and we laid there.  I was so completely defeated, I couldn’t even get up then. I remember his heart was beating so loudly, I said something about I thought it might explode, he laughed and said it must have been all the coke he did before he came over. He got up then and went into the living room to smoke some weed, to “help him relax.” I looked at the time – it was 2:30 and for some reason that, of all things, made me bawl.  He came back in the bedroom and asked what was wrong (!?!).  I cried until I passed out.

I woke when the alarm went off and he was crashed out next to me. Ew ew ew. I showered and quickly got ready for work and then had a heck of a time waking him up so I could leave.  I didn’t want to touch him or talk to him, but I couldn’t just leave him there.  I shook him awake and told him I had to leave right then. We got out into the parking lot and I started getting into my car, he said something like, “Aren’t you even going to say goodbye?” and I replied, “You can’t do this to me again.” He smirked that same sick grin as before and said, “Oh yes, I can.”

That day at work was pretty much hell.  I remember the secretary mentioning that I had got there really early – I had too!  I didn’t take time to eat or make tea or anything, I just wanted to get the fuck out of my apartment. At noon I went to lift weights with a coworker and friend, which was our habit on Thursdays and as we dressed she asked, “What happened to your leg…both of your legs…and your arm…my god your shoulder! Brigid!”  I sheepishly looked away, told her that Dude had been over the night before and it got a little out of hand. I remember her looking at me waiting for me to say more and I didn’t. That was the extent of the reporting.

Of course I didn’t tell anyone, especially the cops.  I felt like an idiot for trusting him, for opening the door, for being stoned, for wearing those pajamas, for not being smarter or stronger or any adjective that would have kept it from happening.

Over the next couple of weeks there were several nights Dude called repeatedly, and then, often, some time later there would be frenetic pounding on my door, him hollering my name.  It was awful – I would squat behind the couch in the dark because if he saw a light or heard noise he wouldn’t go away for long periods of time, sometimes banging on the door for 20 minutes, going out to the car and calling again, leave a message saying he could hear my phone ring, my car was there he knew I was home, then he would come back in and knock some more.  Eventually he gave up.

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