"1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 people will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18-years-old," according to Elizabeth Santiago, Chief Executive Officer at Center for Safety & Change. Around the country, victims of sexual violence carry their shame and trauma into adulthood, hindering them from walking through life freely. Psychologist and activist Anita Kopacz is teaming up with the Center for Safety & Change of Rockland County for her Zero F’s Given campaign in order to help victims of sexual violence in reclaiming their power.
Anita Kopacz has overcome her own trauma and is now helping others to face theirs! In creating the Zero F’s Given campaign, she enlisted the help of celebrities such as Angela Rye, June Ambrose, Cyn Santana and other fellow activists to take to social media wearing their Zero F's Given tees to support this important cause. In doing so, Anita wishes to raise awareness for victims of sexual violence as well as help them find their voice in order to heal their trauma and take back their power. Making November 11 the official Zero F’s Given Day (or #ZFGDay), Anita hopes to sell at least 10,000 t-shirts and 80% of Zero F's Given profits will go directly to The Center for Safety & Change in order to fund programs and help survivors of sexual violence.
BET caught up with Anita Kopacz to learn about her personal story of overcoming the trauma of her sexual assault, her Zero F’s Given campaign, and the impact she hopes to leave with her movement!
BET: Can you tell us why you wanted to start the Zero F’s Given campaign?
Anita Kopacz: So what basically inspired me to start the Zero F’s Give campaign is that I was molested when I was seven years old. I went through years of being silent about it. I didn't tell anyone about it. When I was in my twenties, I finally started to do talk therapy. And that helped a little bit. About five years ago, I was the Editor-In-Chief of Heart and Soul Magazine at the time, and I was having flashbacks of the molestation whenever my partner was trying to be intimate with me. So it was coming into my own sex life. I was basically not enjoying my own sex life and I was like, ‘There is something that I need to do here.’ So I decided to go on a journey of healing and use different types of modalities. I found this one person who literally goes through my body and finds where I'm holding the trauma. And it was amazing! I was literally able to let go through that. Then, through studying tantra, I was able to let go of those issues and really come into this place of enjoying pleasure.
So I was asleep one night. I woke up in the middle of the night and this idea came to me so I just grabbed my journal and I started sketching the Zero F's Given logo. And I was like, ‘What is this idea?’ That's basically where it came from. It felt like I was able to get to this point of healing. They say 1 in 4 women have been molested but from my experience in meeting people, I feel like it's definitely higher, right? If there’s that many people who are holding back in their life because if they have been molested or sexually assaulted in any way, it affects your power center. You're not able to completely be yourself. Say when you're walking into a board room or somewhere: you are either overcompensating and being way too much of a perfectionist. Or your holding back and you're just not being in your power. I am doing this not only for me. I'm doing it for everyone who has ever experienced this.
BET: How did you go about asking women, like Angela Rye, June Ambrose and Cyn Santana, as well as men to be part of your campaign?
AK: Even before I knew I was going to do it, I had reached out to people and just kind of told them about it and anyone I would tell, they were like, ‘I want to do it whenever you do it. I'm part of it.’ So it's actually men and women. There are quite a few men and women that have agreed. For me, I know that it's definitely out there as a women's issue, but it is an issue for women and men. Boys and girls go through this. I've heard so many different stories and so I wanted to be inclusive of both sexes in the movement.
And it was literally such an easy ask! Everyone just said yes and it was really beautiful. I remember when I told June Ambrose and she was like, ‘This is such an important movement that you're doing. I am an absolute yes, so just let me know what you need.’ Like I don't feel like this is my movement. I feel like it's everyone's movement that it belongs to everyone.
I think the beautiful thing is that even if you haven't experienced that, someone in your ancestry line has so it is a part of your system. I have three children. I have never had a babysitter and that's absolutely because I don't trust, you know what I mean? It kind of messed up me being able to trust other people around my children. So, there are ways that our lives are being changed because of how I'm thinking, you know?
BET: Why do you think it’s important for both genders, particularly in the Black community, to have a more open dialogue about sexual violence?
AK: It is absolutely so important to open up this dialogue in our community because first of all, Black people are scared of therapy. It's getting so much better. I am a psychologist and so I've worked with a lot of people. For so many people, these can be very old issues. And what happens as you work through these issues, you're walking in this world in a whole different way. And, like I said before, it's connected to our power center. Can you imagine if Black people were in tune with their power, as a whole? Obviously, there are so many who are in tune and in touch, but if we really remember who we are, it's just brilliant.
BET: Why do you think it’s taboo for Black people to discuss their trauma with family members?
AK: Yes, there is definitely this front of having to have everything together because the whole thing of, ‘Don't air your dirty laundry.’ But if you don't air it, your house is gonna stink! It may look good from the outside, but it's going to stick if you don't wash it and let it hang out to dry. And I feel like it definitely, to me, stems from slavery. We had to keep it together to work. There wasn't time to complain. It was like we had enough energy to work and then go home, eat and sleep. So there's this thing of keeping it together and not going into those spaces of healing whatever traumas have come up. I know that that seems like so long and far away, but we are still living within the conditioning of it because our parents. This is the way they protect us as far as us different things that they learned. And I feel like the millennials are changing the world because they are shifting how people believe we can exist.
BET: Why do you think it’s important for grassroots, bottom-up campaigns to address sexual violence in the United States since it doesn’t get much attention from policymakers?
AK: It is so important. With the Center for Safety & Change, I've basically been working with them for a few years and, just last month, I became a board member. They are the only ones in Rockland County that helped women who have either been victim to domestic violence, sex trafficking or have experienced any kind of sexual violence. For them to be the only one in this huge area already shows that there is an issue because they won't be able to handle it. Everyone who’s had these issue try to come in for help.
This year during the furloughs [of the government shutdown], they basically weren't able to pay their employees and the employees came in and worked for free. They knew that the women still needed it. For me, I felt like I definitely needed to support what they're doing because they are doing the work of so many people. There’s not enough here.
BET: What are you hoping to accomplish with his campaign?
AK: Well, that definitely bring up emotions for me. If one little girl or one little boy can recognize that they're not alone and that they can accomplish their dreams? That would be enough. It's not even just little boys and girls. It's for the little boy and the little girl inside of us. The picture that I used is of me now and me at seven when I was molested in the Zero F’s Given t-shirt. The picture represents me standing with her as we go on this journey.
And, of course, I would love to make millions for the center!
To get involved, purchase a t-shirt or get more informed, visit the Center For Change & Safety's Zero F's Given page here!
EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
(Photo: Keith Major for Zero F's Given)