A Survivor’s Tale

Professor Salamishah Tillet, Scheherazade Tillet and SOARS cast members: Hettie Barnhill, Patrese McClain and Ugochi. Photo by Scheherazade Tillet taken from Facebook.

What The Report Doesn’t Tell You
by Amari Mitchell

In light of the recent sexual assault report, SOARS (Story of a Rape Survivor) was a performance to be remembered. Penn alum and professor, Salamishah Tillet’s presentation of the story about her overcoming two sexual assaults during her Penn career was an intimate two hours.

The audience watched slideshows of her recovery and listened to voiceovers of Tillet’s traumatic experiences and how she learned to cope.

Her sister and creative director, Scheherazade Tillet’s visual construction of what happens when one’s mind, body, and spirit after experiencing sexual assault. This representation is severely lacking from the administration’s rhetoric about how to handle the “troubling report”, as described by President Amy Guttman.  SOARS gives a voice to a segment of the population that would otherwise simply be a percentage point. This I feel, was Tillet’s motivation in sharing her deeply personal story to audiences across the country. During the performance’s talkback, Tillet was asked why she decided to expose her private healing process. She responded, “It’s about me, but it’s not about me”.


While her slideshow played to songs like Nina Simone’s “Four Women” and Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work”, we were given a glimpse into one of Tillet’s many healing processes. She wanted to cover all of the bases.  She attended therapy sessions, both group and individual, and she attempted to seek legal repercussions for her assaulter, unfortunately to no avail. Nonetheless, her journey isn’t over and each performance, with the help of the cast she is able to continue her growth.


It is imperative that we don’t forget survivor narratives in the fight to end sexual violence. Every number in a report is a representation of human being with a story of how they choose to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault. The report ends where conversations need to begin about how we create protective spaces for survivors. Professor Tillet and her sister, Scheherazade, seek to do just this with their foundation, A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based national non-profit that uses art to educate, inspire, and mobilize young people to end violence against girls and women.


Visit http://www.alongwalkhome.org/ for more information on how to join the fight to end sexual violence.

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