Sandi Giver has an important story to tell. Her book, One of Us: Sex, Violence, Injustice. Resilience, Love, Hope., recounts her experience seeking justice through the military court-martial system.

In 2011, Sandi was sexually assaulted by an active member of the U.S. military while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda. While pursuing justice, she endeavored to fulfill her volunteer commitment as she suffered from the effects of physical and emotional trauma. By the time of her assault, Sandi had already acquired an impressive background working with vulnerable women and youth in underserved and marginalized communities.

One Saturday in March 2017, Sandi told me all about her work assisting exploited and trafficked individuals, and also what it was like to author a book depicting the most traumatic period of her own life.

Listen to the full two-hour interview here, or read an adaptation below.

What was your experience like working overseas?

 [In India] I volunteered with an organization that worked with women who were forgotten and displaced, and individuals who had been sex trafficked. I volunteered with Missionaries of Charity, and at the same time that I applied for that, I applied for Peace Corps.

I was accepted into the Peace Corps Uganda program, where once again I was working with women who had been sexually exploited. I facilitated classes dealing with the psychosocial effects of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] in a post-conflict zone, which boils down to life skills, how we communicate, how we live, and how we do what we want to when we have all those barriers, psychologically and interpersonally.

Did you hear, watch, or read anything that influenced your decision to work overseas?

That [all] started in sixth grade. I heard a story about a woman – and it’s very much the white savior complex, and I’ve learned a lot and I’m not into that as much, about going from your country to a different country and trying to save people and whatnot – but she was very inspirational in the way that she went to West Africa and saw [these two] kids who were born as twins. One was seen as good, and one was seen as evil. They left both the kids out in the middle of the woods for lions, tigers, and bears, [so that] the kids would be killed. So she decided, “Oh, I see this need,” and [she went] in the middle of the night to rescue these kids. I think what stuck with me the most is that they were abandoned and displaced. They were forgotten – just throwaways. My exposure as a kid was this overseas aspect, so I [decided I wanted] to go overseas to South Africa. Still haven’t been there, but I’m hoping to do that at some point.

I read a lot about South Africa. I read a lot of books about child-headed households where HIV/AIDS, especially in South Africa, a lot of families were destroyed by [this] disease, and parents were passing away or they were very sick…To some degree, I think I identified with them. Or if things had been slightly different, I could have been them.

I identified with someone who is struggling, but I knew that I was at least a little bit better off. And wanting to give other people safe space, so that they could get their education or do what they needed to do to have a better life – the life that they desired.

Do you recall any titles of written or web-published works that inspired your path in life?

I feel like everything [I’ve done] has had a true North Star. The path has been very different than what I originally thought, but it’s been very much at the core of who I am.

I like to be a problem solver, and when it comes to South Africa, when it comes to the problem of sex trafficking it’s like, “How do we find the solutions?”  So as a kid I read a lot of Nancy Drew.

I’m just going to say that Nancy Drew was my jam. Nancy Drew was always about the mystery. It was the “who-dunnit” and always “who is exploiting who?” There is always this sense of wanting justice, whether it was stealing someone’s book, or hurting someone else and wanting to right those wrongs. But there weren’t any particular South Africa books.

“There is always this sense of wanting justice, whether it was stealing someone’s book, or hurting someone else and wanting to right those wrongs.”  

I read a lot of the Bible. … Jesus was very compassionate towards people that everyone else rejected. When I think about like, when I don’t have much, what is it that I can give to others?

I know that it doesn’t matter what you have, as long as you love and do what you can [for others], even if it’s not much. It’s the effort. It’s the showing that you’re present with that person.

At what point in time did you feel you needed to write your own story down, and why?

Like the majority of life events, you think that nothing wrong is going to happen [to you], or you just think that life is going to be fine and dandy.

[Following the assault], I was very concerned about my own health. I was concerned about some of the statements that the man who chose to rape me  said about a woman from a previous week. He was not sure about his own sexual health, and so I went to our Peace Corps Medical Officer to ask for PEP [post-exposure prophylaxis], which helps reduce the likelihood that you’ll get HIV/AIDS.

I was like, “I can’t control what happened to me! I can’t control that atrocity, but I can do something about my own health!”

A couple of days later we found out he was U.S. military, and NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] agents had to fly from Djibouti down to Uganda.  I had to make an official statement. I wasn’t necessarily going to press charges, but I was encouraged to at least start the process.

I thought, “I can always back out… Start it now while it’s still fresh.”

When the two lawyers came, I had to tell them what happened. The things that happened before, what led up to the actual assault, the details of the assault in the days after it all had happened.

I knew that if I was actually going to go to trial, I needed to remember every single detail. I needed to be spot on. I knew that I would be torn apart on a stand if I didn’t remember those things. So I think I went back to the hostel that we were staying in, and started to type some things out. So that’s when I first originally started writing this, because of that and the importance of it.

[Later on], a staff member at Peace Corps was like, “Hey Sandi, we’re revising our sexual assault pre-service training [materials]. Will you write like a vignette, or can you write up a little story that we maybe can use?”

That’s when I hard-core started to write all of the details.

When did you decide to adapt your experience into a book?

I just kept writing. I kept writing and writing. I would Google – I searched online:  “Has this ever happened before? Are our military individuals ever held accountable?”

I searched a lot. I didn’t find anything, and so it was a learning experience. It is almost as if it was investigative journalism, but about my own life.

Nancy Drew.

Yeah, Nancy Drew! It was cool to write things [out] and try to make connections. My personality is definitely: “I want to figure out the patterns. I want to figure out what is going on.”

I forget when exactly it was, but I remember talking to David in the year of the assault. (David was my assigned Security Specialist, and he was my go-to guy at the Peace Corps agency.)

I just remember being like, “Dude this would be an awesome chapter in a book.”

There were so many different ironic events, so many things that it was like, “How can this get any crazier?”

An episode of NCIS ends. An episode of SVU [Law & Order: Special Victims Unit] ends in an hour. [This is like] a year and a half of an episode of NCIS.

How long did it take for you to write One of Us from start to finish?

Forever. I am impressed by the individuals who have full-time jobs and they write. I was in Peace Corps. … There used to be a lot more content, because it was very therapeutic to write.

The short answer is it took probably two years to write the actual content. Then I took a year to just let it sit, and just let it hang out. And maybe I’d get to it, or maybe not. But I needed to take care of myself and, you know, deal with trauma and all of that.

[Thinking and counting] … I was assaulted November 2010. So like, 2013 – 2014 and then 2015 yeah and then yeah, 2016, because it is only 2017. That’s about it. It’s just barely 2017.

Two years for writing content. One year to sit.

Yeah, I’ll say one year for content editing with a friend.

So, I had other friends read it, give feedback, and all that. And then my friend, Helen, she took a year to do the first copy edit to get rid of all my Peace Corps lingo…

I felt bad for her because I would pick up the book, and it would be forward-thinking, and then it would be backward-thinking. So we had to figure out, like, do you say this in this way? She figured it out.

And then it took another year to do the actual official copy edit. So how many years is that?

Five years?  

That’s about right.

One of Us has a very nice aesthetic to it. How did you go about choosing a title, the formatting, and then deciding upon a cover design?

It is a piece of art. It is beautiful.

The beauty of the name of the book: I was volunteering for Service Women Action Network. (I found out about it through a Listserv.) Because my background is about supporting sexual assault survivors and more of the comprehensive long-term [effects], I was like okay. I can be logistical. I have helped with conferences, whatever. And we were – I think it was for California – talking to one of the senators. And the senator asked, “Oh, what branches [of the military] are you all in?”

And when individuals were like, “Oh I was in the Airforce, I was in the Marines, I was in the Navy…” I was like, “Eh, I was just in the Peace Corps…”

One of the individuals who I had been with all day said, “Sandi! Say that with pride! You were a part of the Peace Corps! You are one of us!”

We swore the same swearing in [oath] and all that jazz. It was very much the same. Like, the military versus the Peace Corps – we have missions, but we are together. Me dismissing my [own] experience, but actually her building me up – it was a moment of community. I am not alone. I am one of us. This is the beauty of community, and the beauty of friends that aren’t even necessarily survivors or experienced the atrocities.

A friend of mine – we are both in to art and music – we went to brunch. She is a professional graphic designer. She just loves me. I love her. She was like, “If you ever need anything, let me know.” And I’m like, “Okay. Whatever.” And she’s like, “What are you going to do for a book cover?”

Then there is the beauty of the timeline inside… that was [created by] another friend who donated their time.

And then the map. I knew a cartographer who made maps for a living. I asked him about the map [I made]. And he’s like, “Sandi, it sucks.” And I was like, “Oh, okay.” And he said, “The good thing is that I know how to make maps!”

So people donated their time. They donated their expertise, and thankfully I have some friends who know how to write really good reviews.

The chapters are short…just like in the book Make Lemonade [that] I read as a kid. The chapters are very short …it was kind of an inspiration.

As well as The Time Travelers Wife. With The Time Traveler’s Wife, with the dates and the locations, the [the protagonist] kind of goes back-and-forth, so you can see where things are happening. Between those [two works], I kind of formatted my book in a similar way.

Interesting how you bring up The Time Traveler’s Wife, which is a work of fiction. But it seems it was the organization of that fiction that really inspired the way that you told your own story.

I liked the logic. I like to be able to go back and say, “Wait, what is this connection?” The movie is super confusing, but the book was better. The book was so much richer. I read it while I was in Peace Corps my first year.

Me too! There was a lot of time to read that year…

Yeah, so I went from reading a lot of books to writing a lot of a book.

I bet you end up writing more.

I think I will. I think I will live, and I’ve already got different ideas, but we’ll see.

I have wanted to write a book since I was, like, in high school.

So after you decided to make your story into a book, were you afraid of what people might say or think?

Oh, yes. I was scared. I was very nervous.

I think because wrapped up in writing my book is a lot of trauma. It’s a lot of, like— I went to trial, where I got judged, and I had people twist my words. I have the chapter about the lead up to the assault. I had [my words] used against me. Like, people – the defense lawyer, basically stopped [me] midsentence rather than [letting me] finish the sentence.

So there’s a lot of judgment, especially in society when it comes to sensitive topics such as healthy sexuality and sexual assault.

In social work, we learn a lot about how our society has thought about the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. If your husband dies in war, the widow is the “undeserving poor” because she doesn’t have someone to take care of her.

Let’s say her husband has a mental health issue and is an alcoholic and is not able to provide, then it’s like, “Oh, well you deserve to be poor.”

I don’t agree with any of that, and nobody deserves to go through trauma. No one deserves to be poor.

When it comes to sexual relations, sex can be beautiful. I grew up in a very conservative home. I never talk to my parents about sex. We never had that conversation.

So talking to family members or my parents about, “Hey, guess what. Here is this guy who you know like, maybe it started consensual, but when it became very disrespectful and rude I wanted to stop.” … So there is the judgment: Are you a deserving rape victim now?

And no. No, I’m not.

But I think that as a society, it’s hard to grasp that. We still do, to some degree, blame people. Or we are like, “Oh, you could’ve done this, that, and the other.”

And I’m like, “Yeah, I know. I’ve over analyzed it one million times.”

In the beginning, it wasn’t even the writing that I was concerned about. I thought I was a decent writer. It was more of the content. [I was more afraid of] putting my vulnerability out there. Putting my emotions [out there] and the rawness. It’s a hard book go through. I depict a rape scene.

It’s difficult in the dynamics between a father and his daughter who was assaulted and, like, the heartache of another victim coming forward and then her not be able to come [testify at trial].

No one really attacks the joy. They attack the hardships.

So in the beginning, when I first came back and I was like “I’m writing a book,” people would ask me [about it].

[I would tell them], “I wrote a book about my time in Uganda. I was working with formally abducted child soldiers and sex slaves. It’s about sexual assault and my time in Uganda.” But I never made it personal.

It took a lot of feeling the waters. Like, five years seems kind of slow, but I think it was it was good. Because I needed to build my strength; I needed to build my community. I needed to build up my own ability to deal with criticism.

It’s not even so much the writing, it’s about the content. But I will say, I thought I was a good writer, and then I had a copy editor go through it.

I was like, “Oh my. I am not [a good writer]. There so much red.”

What do you think are the main risks people take when they attempt to speak truth to power?

There’s a lot of risk – from being defriended, to being ostracized from your community.

When it comes to writing the book, I had the risk of putting myself out there to different publishers and being rejected by a lot of different people [who] were like, “We don’t want to touch this. We do not want to touch anything that has to do with sexual assault, and especially when it comes to the military.”

I tried to do speaking engagements through one organization. I think because they have so many partnerships with the military, it just wasn’t going to happen.

Speaking the truth is hard, and people don’t necessarily want to accept it. Or it just goes against what they believe. So I have had to learn all the different analogies, all the ways that I can break it down in a bite-sizeable way, to find that common ground, to agree upon something, and then assess where they are. Then I try to challenge them to just think a little bit more.

They don’t have to be where I am when it comes to this truth, but just to get them to explore truth. And to explore a different way of thinking, or to [consider], “Maybe what I was brought up in? That’s not the way it should be.”  Or [consider], “Maybe there is an alternative.”

I have weird conversations all the time. All of the time. It’s hard because it’s exhausting just as a human being, to constantly be thinking about sexual assault. And to have friends being like, “Sandi, I’m going to this event. It’s about sexual assault! You want to come?”

And I’m like, “Yeah! Okay!” … and to be known for that.

It’s good. It’s good to speak my truth, and then connect with others who also have similar truths. Who also see that truth, and that things can be different and then things should be different. And that together we can make a difference.

Were there ever moments when you doubted yourself in writing and publishing this book? How did you persevere when you felt the odds were against you and getting your story out there?

Yeah, I think we all have high expectations of ourselves. I think that we all have this view of a glamorous world [where] you write a book, and it gets published.  I’m not famous. I’m not anyone special. I am a poor girl, from the town next-door. It’s one of those things. I’m not famous.

And I would just hit brick wall after brick wall. I paid to be part of this online community to try to, like, write publishing people and maybe I got a response. Maybe.

But I also realize that before you send it to publishers, you should’ve paid money, or [the book] should be done. It shouldn’t still be in the [writing/editing] process.

For some people, they’ll put the proposal out there, and it will be a chapter or two. Then they’ll finish the book. My book was already done, it just needed a lot of tweaking and edits and stuff.

There were a lot of brick walls, and a lot of rejection letters.

When I saw that this guy that I served with had published a book – and he’s a comedian, so it’s just like feel-good stories – he published it through Peace Corps Writers. So that’s [who] I reached out to, and some doors started to open. They were like, “Oh my gosh, yes. This is something we are passionate about. Yes, of course we will do this.”

[Peace Corps Writers] are helping out with the process. Like making sure I have a Library of Congress number, and some of those details.

But I hit roadblock after roadblock. Even now, it’s like when it comes to podcasts, and when it comes to certain opportunities, some of them work and some of them don’t.

It’s this weird balance of, I think, I’m supposed to self-promote myself and my book and that I am really cool. But at the same time, I have to be humble and realize no one actually cares.

People want to care, people do want to help you out. It’s just finding them and connecting at the right time, when those things are needed.

What were your biggest challenges in writing your first few drafts?

[While] editing the book, different people were like “Okay, Sandi. We are going to take out this emotion, and make it a little drier. Because you are going to let the reader have those emotions.”

In the word document there were originally 250 pages, and now there are only 150 pages. So there was a lot taken out. A lot of [it was me] reflecting, or [me] trying to make sense of stuff. Chapters about injustices and human rights violations.

There were things that I was personally attached to. Like, at one at one point, I said, “I grew some ovaries.” The final copy editor said, “Eh, that’s controversial.” And I was like, “But it’s so good!”

There were challenges of working with other people. The first person I had go through it as a content editor was a therapist. She wanted to delve into the psychological.

Before that, I actually had people who are characters in the book read it and make sure it was all factual.

Then the next person to do the content edit, she is a very no-funny-business kind of person. She’s like very hard-core… I had to learn to accept to do something that was for other people at some point, not just for me.

You can write for yourself. But then if you actually want to publish it, you have to make sure it’s applicable to a wider audience.

Version control was difficult, because I would start a document and then I would forget where I was. I also had to learn how to do a good table of contents. This is just the logistics of writing. I didn’t even write fiction… mine was just my life.

Another challenge was when people [told me they] were willing to read it, and then they didn’t have time. Or they didn’t give content. I had to figure out how I wanted them to give me feedback. I was just l like, “Here! Here is my first draft! Read it! Give me feedback!” and I didn’t give them any [further] guidance.

They were like, “What do you actually want guidance on?”

[I’d respond], “I don’t know!”

[I would have to ask], “Please do not edit in the ‘copy edit’ way. Like, my grammar sucks. I know. I got that part. Could you just look at the content? Can you look for certain words that are offensive and put a note on that?”

And teaching people how to do that. Because my book is not for experts. My book is for your average Joe and Jane and Jill and everyone else.

Yeah, so just learning your own style of formatting, of how you’re going to edit, and how you’re going to do stuff [like that].

And then also making time to be like, “Once a month we’re going to meet for coffee. We’re just going to talk it out; even if not much progress is being made we’re going to meet.”

And then when it came to actually writing, I would be like “Hey Friend, do you have schoolwork or you need to do something on the computer? Let’s meet up at a coffee shop. Let’s meet for dinner!”

So it’s good to sit there and to be able to not just G-chat with somebody, but actually have a conversation.

Did you have any memorable “wins” while writing One of Us?

One of the first wins that was a big deal [happened] while I was still living the book.

I hated the feeling of pursuing legal justice. I hated the feeling of being violated in my Gmail account, being subpoenaed. There was the physical violation, and then there was the psychological violation of the defense lawyers.

I needed to write this. I needed to help people become knowledgeable of all the complications – of not just an assault, but why it’s important. Because it’s not just one-on-one, it’s all the different people.

So I remember getting a call, and being flabbergasted about the second victim. [I thought], “This is why am seeking legal justice.”

And then in the writing, in being able to talk to other victims of sexual assault, and sharing with them certain chapters of the book – this is a win. This is a win being able to share things.

Or you have friends with different skills and just want to be a part of it. They see your passion for writing, and they see your passion for a cause or a mission. They just want to be a part of it. Then it’s not just a little win, it’s a huge win to get other people involved and other people to care about the issue you are talking and writing about.

There are the individuals who want nothing to do with it. They want to remain in denial, [believe] that there isn’t actually an issue. Or that it’s happening in other places, not here. I think that we have this idea that bad things happen to bad people, or bad things happen other places, partly because we don’t want to accept the fact that it can happen to us. Or to people that we love and that we care about.

I think by being vulnerable, [by] being raw with people, they see that I’m not going to judge them. When you have a mission, you can’t be judging. You have to love people; you have to accept them where they are. You find a middle ground, and you have to meet them where they are.

So even if, like, I’m not going to convince you of anything – you’re going to come to your own conclusions, and that might determine how long our conversation is. But when it comes to mission-driven stuff, being strong in who you are and knowing who you are, and taking time for yourself when you need it, but also be ready for those difficult conversations.

When it comes to the mission, you really have to see what people are interested in and adapt it. Can they do stuff within their family? Can they do stuff within their local community centers? Do they love training? Do they love doing art? Can they do a mural, and do something about healthy relationships? Or are they a politician…” All of these things I test in my own life.

So when you have a mission you have to live it out. If I – a simple human being, a simple person – can do these things, then so can you. You have to be willing to talk, and you have to be willing to share. You have to be willing to sit with people and take the time to have genuine conversations. Or share your number and get coffee.

Something that every writer fears is criticism. You have already gone through the process of testifying in court and dealt with criticism on that level, which sounds infinitely worse than any criticism a fiction writer might face. How has your book been received so far, and how are you preparing to handle criticism?

Oh yeah. It is coming. It will come, and I think that going through the trial and having the Associated Press article in international news and being criticized there… I mean I cried. I definitely cried.

It was hard, because these were people that didn’t even know who I was. They were criticizing my character, and calling me a liar and all this other stuff. Why would I lie about this?

But when it comes to the actual writing of it, it’s very, very important to have other people vet it. It’s is very important to have friends and people who don’t know you read it and make sense of it.

I think that one of the good things that I did is that I had people who are lawyers, people who are into social justice, people who were military moms, all the different people that could really criticize it – I had them read it. Because I didn’t want to offend anyone. I didn’t want people to attack me, or think I was attacking them. I wanted to go through all different forms of criticism before I ever made it public. So that’s what I did to prepare.

But I have had really positive feedback. Really positive feedback from people in all walks of life. People who are survivors, people who are veterans, and people who have experienced military sexual trauma. [Also from] people who served in the Peace Corps and identified with the Peace Corps experience, knew the hardships of grappling with living in a community, living in the village with individuals who have experienced atrocities

I also created a good little safety net, because I’m kind of building up my confidence by only sharing [the book] with friends. Maybe anonymous people or my friends are buying it for their mom or whatever, but it’s intentional because I have to be careful about self-care. … Right now my net is very small, and it’s safe.

Could you talk a little bit about your personal brand? Do you have any tips for developing an online presence? How did you decide upon your web host?

I was listening to Serial, and a lot of podcasts. (I had time then – ha!) They had a lot of ads for Squarespace. So I used Squarespace [for my website].

For like a month, I would go to a computer lab and I would sit there for like an hour. I would try different things. I would try to replicate as much as I could [from] the book cover design. Thankfully I was able to get a graphic for the website [from my friend Erica, the cover designer]. I would say that finding a graphic designer who makes a good thing, to make somewhat of your own branding, is important.

And then keeping it simple. I looked at other people’s websites. I looked at what I appreciated about them. I looked at the simplicity, and I just replicated things I thought were cool. I learned as I went, and Squarespace was simple enough and affordable enough.

It’s important to have your own website and your own email. Also, just, my personal email gets so cluttered. So it’s good to have a One of Us email.

I am not as good about maintaining the website, but it’s there. It’s cool because I have the “Team” page, which is for the 15 people who helped in different aspects of the movement and the project.

Great idea. And it feeds into the One of Us theme. It’s a community. Do you have a large social media following? How is that going?

I once went to an event where it’s like, “You are the brand. You are a brand. You have to figure out who you are, and then you sell other stuff.”

It depends on my mood. It depends on what’s going on in life. It depends on how much time I have. I would say since November it has been a little bit challenging to spend too, too much time on it.

But, [there are] phone aps, tips and tricks. Canva! Canva is free. You can do a lot on there. You can upload your own graphics; you can use whatever text.

I love Pinterest. I do a lot of graphic design boards…

I realized that people like to see faces. Like, they know me. They know me as the author, so typically if I post something with my face on it, they are more likely to “Like” it. Quotes are difficult, because they are easy to just scan there…it takes time to actually read them.

So learning who is going to care, what hashtags to use. You know? You throw it in. See what will work.

Attending events, trying to make sure that I take photos with people, that are either leaders of the event or someone important… Make sure you have business cards.

And do stuff that is unique [and] silly [on] social media. Not everything has to be about the content. Some of it can be just like, random videos. Or, “Hey check this out.” Or do the weird hashtags. Or like, cupcakes.

I enjoyed eating the cupcakes.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to do something innovative. No one knows what they are doing. No one. You are just faking it until you make it, and then you just act like you know what you are doing. People go along with it, because they have never done it.

What can we all do to continue supporting you, your book, and the One of Us Movement?

My friends are able to have conversations. I don’t think they ever need to [get to my level], of [having] constant sexual assault conversations. But the fact that we can create a culture where we are more knowledgeable about sexual assault, [know] the reality of the numbers, how there are always variables, and how it’s very complex. There are all these challenges, and there are reasons why people don’t report. And there are reasons why people want to deal with it on their own.

I think part of my mission is destigmatizing. Destigmatizing that sexual assault survivors are incapable of living a normal life, or that they are forever broken, or that they will never have healthy relationships.

Part of the reason why I am able to do that is just because I have had amazing mentors. I have had amazing women and men who are leaders in this field, and who are leaders in other ways, who are just very passionate about supporting others, and who are very passionate about also destigmatizing.

The more that I am public about hearing about sexual assault, or caring about the issue and the mission, people come to me. They see me as a safe space, and I would love [to see] more safe people in the world.

Is there anything else that you would like to share in closing?

About the writing process – just be forgiving of yourself. It’s a long process. Don’t get discouraged because it’s taking you longer. Or don’t get discouraged because people committed to reading it, and then they are unable to read it. People have lives, and it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with them. Just be patient. And be loving of yourself, and be forgiving of yourself.

It’s really cool to be able to say, “Yeah, I wrote a book.” And then, I go to events where we talk about sexual assault… or for me, like, someone tried to school me on what sexual assault was. I was like, “Yeah, I wrote a book about it.”

It’s cool to be able to say “Oh, yeah. I wrote this thing.” And to see that I wrote it, [and think of] all the people involved in the process. And just to be able to have a physical copy as a thing of love.

When I was in Uganda with my students, I took a lot of photos with them. It was one for one. I would give them one photo of me and my family, [or a photo of] me and them. And they would give me a photo of them and their family, or of them in their community. So it’s very reciprocal. It’s keeping the focus not on yourself, but on the community.

Know yourself. Just keep going. You’ve got this. If I was able to do it, you can too.

About the Author

Sandi Giver has over ten years of professional experience in anti-trafficking in persons and women’s health issues. Her book, One of Us: Sex, Violence, Injustice. Resilience, Love, Hope. (published in November 2016), recounts her experience with the military criminal justice system following her sexual assault by an active member of the U.S. Navy in 2011. Since then, Sandi has continued to dedicate herself to destigmatizing perceptions of sexual assault victims, as well as raising awareness, community organizing, and advocating for sexual assault policy reforms. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and works at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington D.C.

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