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Scarred but not broken

SPEAKING UP: Kevin J. Marshall

APRIL MARKS Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and this year, a nationwide campaign dubbed “Embrace Your Voice” seeks to raise awareness of sexual abuse and sexual violence.

In honour of the month, a young black male author, film director and sexual abuse activist, Kevin J. Marshall, has travelled around the world to ask the singular question: why is sexual abuse a secret within the black community?

His findings are unveiled in his maiden documentary - Untold Story. This documentary chronicles stories of sexual abuse from an unsuspecting group of people – black men – and documents how these men, despite their seemingly quiet but torturous struggles, rise above their personal tragic experiences after decades of torment.

This isn’t fiction, but an emotive first hand report that’ll send chills down your spine. Why is Marshall’s work so important? It takes inspiration from real life sexual abuse experiences that have been harboured in these men from their early childhood.

The documentary elicits all sorts of emotions: anger, bitterness, pain, and even a sense of relief [from sharing their story]. In some places, you can almost feel the intensity of the emotions expressed as tears roll down the cheeks of these powerful and strong black men.

Untold story from Kevin on Vimeo.

It’s somewhat chilling, brutal and raw. But at the same time, refreshing that, someone can be bold about unspoken issues within the black community. What’s important for Marshall is shedding light on an issue that’s been swept under the carpet for a long time. He felt the time had come to be open about these issues to provide strength for other black men.

Marshall says, the documentary was inspired by his “own set of experiences growing up as a child”, but in order to tackle this issue from various angles and provide adequate context, he explores the subject matter through “the lens of other people who’ve equally suffered abuse”.

By doing so, Marshall believes strongly that his message will hit home, though sensitive. And perhaps, let past and existing sufferers know that they’re not alone.

To add to this, he’s keen to expose the falseness and hollowness of this issue: that it only affects a certain group of people. Marshall says, “the issue is widespread and not limited to a particular group. It cuts across all races, creeds, colour, and religion.

“And of course, black men have always been a part of all of these groups but just haven’t been bold enough to step forward”. He continues: “the discourse hasn’t been sparked yet because of fear of the unknown, and sometimes, because people are unwilling to take that risk [by telling their story] to help someone else”.

This documentary was inspired while writing his book – Running Away From Me, which should be launched later on this year. Marshall hopes to get people thinking by opening up the conversation and creating dialogue.

His charity foundation, Step Into the Light, will also help facilitate these conversations, break the mould and support people who’ve endured some form of childhood trauma.

This, of course, will be in partnership with Local Authorities and organisations such as Survivor UK and One In Four. His goal is to provide support and counselling for sexual abuse survivors and help combat this issue, the taboos and stigma attached to speaking up.

His message is simple: to empower young black men to speak up. But more importantly, not to run away from themselves but to think of themselves as heroes, not villains.

Take the lead role in your life and speak up because it could be healing for someone else.

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