Standing at the crossroads, raw, and confused Harper was facing the biggest choice of her life. The daunting question ruminating within was, “Do I allow the darkness to take me over and become a victim, or do I allow the essence of Spirit to guide me through toward survival?”
Many years ago, Harper encountered a devastating occurrence that unfortunately many women and men experience all around the world. She was raped, stalked, and faced PTSD as a result of a violent sexual assault. Harper explains, “I’m a survivor, I was raped and stalked many years ago and developed chronic PTSD that fundamentally changed my life. It was as though I slammed into an alien planet where everything looks the same, but everything is terrifying, threatening and unreachable. Over time, and multiple varied efforts and interventions, I recovered and am still in recovery from trauma. The more that I felt safe, stable and secure I was able to self-reflect on what happened throughout the process and reflect on how it changed me. Many things stood out, and the most significant parts were the wildly expanded view of how the world operates and sense of surrender to it, and a fierce rage to destroy the systems that led to my trauma.”
Harper chose to allow Spirit to empower her to become a survivor, which lead her to avenues of recovery that also allowed her to help others. When inquiring about the story behind Initiated Survivor podcast she replied, “When I was early in my recovery, I struggled to connect to others that truly understood. I knew that there were so many of us, but there were so few accessible resources and groups to get help. I felt very isolated and struggled with recovering and rebuilding my life. When our greater culture and community appeared to be turning against survivors, I knew I needed to change this. I wanted to build a community that I needed but couldn’t access and offer the skills and resources I couldn’t find; I wanted to change this so that the survivors I knew were coming after me would have a much more reparative environment.”
Through Harpers courage to be a voice for survivors she also shared subjective insight of the struggles occurring within society surrounding rape, politics, and the journey that survivors face each day. Harper stated that, “My drive to create this podcast came truly from a passion to create a community that can mobilize and shift the paradigm our culture has around rape, sexual assault, and trauma. With political events and public movements, that energy really grew. It was when Brett Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court and we watched and heard our leaders debate whether rape was really “that bad” and essentially assert that rape is such a commonplace occurrence, we should move toward making more room and space for rapists. There was no space to center survivors and our insight and wisdom inherent to our daily fight to live and to restore connection to ourselves and the world. I felt very strongly that, while I was never going to convince our insatiable politicians to understand, I could support other survivors buried in the pain of this and mobilize our community to change how the broader culture is shaping this paradigm of rape acceptance. The more that we center the stories of survivors, the harder we are to deny and ignore, and the more power we collect and mobilize to truly make change. When the public fully rejects rape and any form of rape acceptance, the world will change.”
Harper also followed her soul when creating the name and motto of the podcast. When asked why Harper called the podcast Initiated Survivor she replied, “I named the podcast Initiated Survivor, first and most importantly to call in my community of survivors and offer all of us a space to gather. The goal of the podcast is to connect us all together, to offer a space where survivors feel heard and seen and believed. In my own recovery, I was very inspired by stories and philosophies that likened trauma recovery to initiatory processes, that by surviving trauma, we are initiated into something – a new journey, a new world, a mission of sorts. Much like how our mythical Persephone is pulled into the underworld, and with the assistance of Hecate, she finds her way out and into a new and wise identity and way of being. Her journey out of the underworld develops her wisdom and powers as the Goddess she becomes who then shepherds’ others through the underworld as well. I too feel my trauma survival was initiatory and launched me into a journey of pursuing justice for all impacted by sexual violence and steward survivors who come after me.”
Additionally, the motto of her podcast is Tempered through fire, all survivors possess wisdom and grit. She expressed the depth and breadth of the meaning as, “All survivors were tossed into hell, the underworld of trauma. And surviving this meant fighting to survive the trauma, then fighting to re-establish and live our lives, and reclaim what truly matters to who we are and our communities. We pull ourselves inch by inch out of this fiery hellscape and develop certain strengths and skills and wisdom that is unique only to survivors.”
When asked about sponsorship Harper expressed that she would like her interviewees and listeners to know that she does not have sponsors. “I chose not to out of respect to survivors and how challenging it can be to connect to each other, even at a safe distance through ear buds. Holding space for survivors and hearing each other’s stories requires a lot of vulnerability for the teller and the listener, and I honor and protect that vulnerable space by not allowing in any disruption and interruptions that I can,” Harper stated.
Harper would like to invite survivors to reach out to her if she/he feel they are in a healthy space to share their story. She expresses that, “Telling and hearing stories is reparative and healing when we’re ready to share. Telling stories is an action of reclaiming and choosing when and how and how much we tell is all a part of that reclamation. You and your story matter and are important, and we’re holding space for you whether you tell your story or not or share with only a few people or share only a few parts. If you’re not ready, that’s important to honor with love and self-compassion. Know that whether you share, or not, with anyone, we all carry your untold story within us too. If you’re ready, we are too.”
Harper would also like to express the goal and future vision for creating and building a following around the podcast, “The podcast for me is like weaving a fabric, pulling in and weaving in thread after thread after thread makes this fabric strong and vibrant. This is how we build a community, connecting all survivors and allies to each other through the healing and mobilizing power of storytelling. As we come together, I plan to offer virtual workshops, ceremonies, meditations, healing works, mental health tips and skills, and continue moving forward with the mission of arming every survivor with support and power and then taking on the culture that we need to shift.”
Kelsey J. Harper has come a long way on her healing journey, not only has she survived, created the podcast to empower, she has also educated herself and completed her doctorate in Clinical Psychology to better understand her journey as a wounded warrior but also to be able to help others find tools along their path of health and wellness.
For all who may be interested in connecting with Harper, listening to the podcast, viewing her website, or connecting with the community feel free to go to:
Initiated Survivor can be heard anywhere you listen to podcasts:
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