I Weigh Community Member Kenidra Woods is the founder of the Cheetah Movement, an initiative to raise awareness about self-harm, mental health and body positivity.
Here are some of her thoughts on learning to forgive.
On something that might surprise her followers…
Most people might not know this, but I’m really silly. I’m always serious about activism, but I’m actually a really silly, chill person.
On what she was born to do…
My life’s purpose is to motivate people and inspire people through sharing my story. I couldn’t have gone through what I went through for no reason. There’s a reason why we go through what we go through.
On overcoming trauma…
I went through sexual abuse and neglect [as a young kid]. I had to forgive and forget the people who mistreated me. I’ve reached a place where my sanity is way more important than walking around with all this anger towards these men. My sanity is way more important. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to overcome in my life.
On first steps..
My first step to overcoming was acknowledging what I went through. I was in denial for a while. The first step was having a conversation with myself, and then a therapist. There was something that struck a chord in me, acknowledging it first.
It was a hard thing to do. It wasn’t always easy. I’ve learned to forgive them because my sanity is way more important than walking around with anger. Even though they wronged me and did horrible things, I’ve still found it in my heart to forgive them because we all have the potential to change. And many people wouldn’t agree with that, but we all have potential to have some great things happen in our lives and evolve. So forgiving those men was a big step for me towards my healing. I forgave them for me, not for them.
On hope for her abusers…
I hope those people get the help they need. It’s just a cycle. After my abuser sexually assaulted me, I heard his dad molested him. It’s a cycle of sexual assault.
I pray they get the help they need because he can’t walk around doing this to people. My abuser is locked up for his entire life, so i’m just saying I hope he gets help and he realises what he’s done is wrong and he actually tries to make it right. I don’t know how he would make it right. Maybe make it right within himself. Talk to God or whoever he believes in.
On her community and mental health…
I was in a predominantly black school and one of my principals said ‘Oh I never saw a black girl cut herself, I never saw scars on a black girl ever in my life.’
The biggest obstacle when talking about mental health in the black community is religion. It’s a main hindrance because they say depression or mental illness is not real. They say you’re possessed or something, it’s a demon.
[Often in our community,] coming to your parents, they will pray about it and say, ‘what stays in this house, stays in this house’.
In my perspective, what stays in this house, doesn’t stay in this house. If I’m hurting, I’m going to say something about it. That’s why I changed the dialogue with my family. And that’s why I am where I am today. In my family, it was just a cycle of depression and denial going on. I was literally the first young person in my family to actually say something about [my mental health.] Now my uncle talks about his depression, my auntie talks about her depression.They say I made them more open to talking about their mental health and that’s so good.