Daniela Arango: Finding Authenticity

In this episode of The Power of Your Story Podcast, Girls’ Globe founder Julia Wiklander speaks with Daniela Arango. They talk about her journey to confidence, overcoming fears and finding authenticity. Daniela dedicates her life to strengthening others spiritually and physically. Born in Colombia, she moved to the US as a teenager and now lives with her partner in Sweden.

Early in life, Daniela had to take big responsibilities in her family as she was the eldest in the household when her parents divorced. She talks about imposter syndrome, taking on too much responsibility and panic attacks. She also shares her tools for finding balance and encourages us to be our genuine selves.

The Power of Your Story Podcast is made in partnership with SayItForward.org – the platform where every woman and girl is encouraged to share her unique story of overcoming the fears, personal beliefs, or circumstances that have held her back. In this episode, Daniela Arango talks about experiencing limiting beliefs and what confidence and courage mean for her.

“Courage is to have fear and doubts, and still go.”

Too often, women are inhibited by doubts, fears and limiting beliefs that come both from other people and ourselves. We need more visible examples of women who have experienced and overcome their own barriers. We also need more space where women can have honest conversations with one another. When we are listened to, when we realize that our voices are important, when we feel supported by others, and when we are reminded that we are not alone in our experiences, wonderful things can happen. 

Through solidarity, encouragement and inspiration, women can support one another’s self-belief. That’s why we’ve created The Power of Your Story Podcast in partnership with SayItForward.org.

“We don’t do any good in pleasing others in the way we think they want to be pleased.”

The Power of Your Story Podcast is an interview series with women from around the world and you can find it where podcasts are found! As this is a brand new podcast, we would love for you to share it with others and rate it in whichever app you use.

A Letter to Assault Survivors

‘Effects of sexual assault on future relationships’

‘Multiple sexual assaults’

‘Definition of rape’

‘Was I raped’

‘Can you be raped twice’

‘Can your boyfriend rape you’

‘Please help’

These were some of an endless list of phrases I typed into google search bars, coming through every results page to see if anything could explain the last few years of my life.

Five years ago, if you’d typed any of the above, you’d get a handful of articles (and one pdf document) that documented the phenomenon of repeated sexual assaults. Most were unhelpfully inconclusive as to why it happened, but they were my only comfort in that they at least confirmed that it did.

A victim of multiple sexual assaults challenges our comprehension, and our empathy. We imagine that the after-effects would be hypervigilance, an ingrained wariness of risky behaviors or situations. The human brain, however, does not always act logically when distorted by extreme pain or shame, both of which rape victims experience profoundly.

A devastating letter by the victim of Brock Turner shed light on struggles of recovering from an assault, but fewer of the less palatable effects of an assault are as widely discussed. People are generally willing to accept anguish, anger or fear. They’re less ready to believe that trauma can beget trauma.  If a woman has been so badly burned, some ask, why would she throw herself into another fire?

Smart, strong, reasonable women who have been victimized by sexual assault can still be vulnerable to abusive relationships, sexual situations they don’t know how to control, and unsure how or when to say ‘no’.

I’m one of them. One ten minute incident five years ago spurred me to spend the next 1,095 days unknowingly punishing myself for it. If a boy bought me a drink, I’d feel so guilty that he’d spent $5 on me that I’d close my eyes and bear it when he pushed me against a wall and put his hands up my shirt, even if I’d asked him not to. Was that assault? It couldn’t have been. I didn’t fight him off.

If I came home exhausted and someone I was dating didn’t listen when I said I was tired, then pulled me on the bed and unbuttoned my jeans while I protested, I’d try not to show them I was biting my tongue and crying because of course, this was how men were supposed to treat me and it was my job to put up with it. Also, I’d said yes before. So it couldn’t be rape.

If sex hurt, it was because it was supposed to. If I’d done something I didn’t want to, it was because ‘can we not do this’ was a favour I should be grateful for, not a fixed boundary. If I got hurt, it was my own fault because I should’ve known better. If I started talking about it, the confused looks while friends asked for clarification – “I mean, you said you were tired, but you didn’t insist, did you?” “If you didn’t want him to touch you, why didn’t you push him off?” – pummelled my definition of ‘consent’ to practically nothing.

The more confused I became, the more ashamed I became, the worse my decisions became, the longer my list of, ‘did I want that?’ became, the more my vicious cycle strengthened. Before I hit a breaking point and went into therapy, I would have had to be pulled into an alley kicking and screaming before I considered it rape (and even then I would have double checked what time I was walking home and asked myself what I was wearing).

The only things that would lend my story credence are that despite what happened, I have a good career, I have a stellar social media presence, I’m constantly projecting happiness, I’ve had successful relationships, and I’ve not spoken about it publicly before. The less we speak about it, the less we let it affect us, the more we blame ourselves, the more credible we are. As painful as it may be to lock ourselves into our patterns of behaviour, it is far more terrifying to admit what we’re doing, to admit what’s happening to us. It’s horrendous to be a rape victim. It’s intolerable to be a rape victim nobody believes.

I’m one of the luckier ones. After three years, I stumbled into therapy and a social circle of women I respected with similar experiences. For the last two years, I haven’t cared if someone buys me a drink, and my boyfriends know that even if it’s just because I want to read a book instead, they’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Nonetheless, I’m still hesitant to talk about it. But recovering enough has left me with the gnawing guilt that comes with knowing that there are other women, right now, who are googling, wondering how much of what’s happening to them is their fault, desperately hoping it isn’t.

It took me five years to be able to say, being raped doesn’t mean you deserved to be raped. Being hurt once doesn’t make you damaged goods. You don’t have to spend your life repenting for something you didn’t do. If you didn’t want it, if you say you didn’t want it, that’s enough.

No matter how many times it happens, you should know, it isn’t your fault. You don’t have to live your life telling yourself it is.

Remembering the Female Heroes of 9/11

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Image Courtesy of Katie Killary on Flickr (Creative Commons).

Growing up in America, I would often hear adults recall “where they were” the moment President John F. Kennedy got assassinated. I could never relate. How I wish that was still the case. For my generation, we remember where we were when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and The Pentagon.

After finishing an early morning dentist appointment, I noticed that the entire waiting room was stunned silent as they watched the horrifying events unfold on the office’s television. The moment I saw the live news footage of the World Trade Center towers, I understood why. A feeling of emptiness, shock, and awe enveloped me as never in my lifetime, or ever for that matter, had America suffered from such a significant and deadly attack on our soil. I did not know what to do next so, like everyone else in that room, I watched in horror. But what I could not know at the time was that out of the horror would come stories of unimaginable courage.

Of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks, 412 were emergency workers – firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics.

On 9/11, the world watched as our firefighters bravely climbed up the stairs when everyone else ran down; as police officers remained calm as survivors fled the scene; as paramedics and EMTs helped the wounded without giving a second’s thought to their own safety.

Although the aforementioned careers are predominantly male-dominated, women too proudly served and protected on that fateful day – a fact all too often overlooked.

I don’t think there was any task that was performed down there by men that were not performed by women.” ~ Terri Tobin, Deputy Inspector of the New York Police Department

In 2011, CNN produced the documentary Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11 to emphasize women’s roles as first responders. In the film, female firefighters, police officers, and an EMT recall their experiences.

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Image Courtesy of Mike Shade on Flickr (Creative Commons).

One featured story depicts that of the late NYPD police officer Moira Smith. Moira prevented mass hysteria and crowded exits by ‘directing traffic’ with a flashlight at the ground floor of World Trade Center Tower Two. Today, survivors remember ‘the woman with the flashlight’ with extreme gratitude and appreciation, for her service not only undoubtedly saved thousands of lives, but also restored some semblance of order and control in the midst of complete and utter chaos.

However, we must not forget that Moira’s story is only one of thousands in which women (and men) displayed superhuman courage.

Instead of associating today with terror and fear, we must remember all those – including women – who stood valiantly in the face of danger in an effort to save the lives of others. Stories like Moira’s, although a tragic reminder of our female heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice, now evoke emotions of hope and strength of the human spirit – and for that we will be forever thankful.

For more information about the female heroes of 9/11, please see the following: