How This Harlem Pastor is Broadening The Conversation on Sexual Violence

Source: LaKeesha Waldrond / Camonghne Felix

As the news on sexual violence has taken over Hollywood and social media alike, there is one woman who is taking the far overdue conversation to a somewhat non-traditional platform: the pulpit.

While Pastor LaKeesha Walrond told CASSIUS she’s preached about and held prayer groups about the issue, she feels like a significant part of the work comes from trying to get the literature out. With her new book My Body is Special, Pastor LaKeesha is digging deep from her own experience and creating space for parents and their children to talk about sexual violence.

The executive pastor of 11 years said she had no original plans about speaking out about her own experience with sexual violence or writing the book. But she saw a need for young ones and their families to be equipped with the healthy vocabulary to talk about sexual abuse.

A lot of the parents I’ve talked to don’t even know how to approach the conversation,” Pastor LaKeesha said. “It’s the last thing on their mind, the last thing they want on their mind, but the reality is that 90 percent of child molestation cases happen with someone that the child knows. While we want to trust the people in our children’s lives, it’s more important to entrust our children with the knowledge they need to protect themselves.”

The book, which the pastor says is the first in a six part series, focuses on a young girl named Eva and her conversations with her mom and her friends on the topic. While the first book is primarily based on Pastor Lakeesha’s experience, the next book will be focused on a father and son in order to talk about how sexual abuse affects men as well.

“We know that these issues are significant for both genders and the statistics show us that one in four girls and one in six boys will be touched inappropriately by the time of their 18th birthday,” she said. “The reality is though that even though a little girl is the main character, the story can relate to young boys as well.”

Calling upon one of her favorite scriptures, Romans 8:28, Pastor Lakeesha said that while she never thought that so much good could come from such a horrific experience in her own life. She wants other victims to know that they don’t have to stop at their place of hurt; there’s a way to move in the direction of healing.

Whenever I preach about it it’s amazing how many men and women come up to me and say ‘this is my story too,'” she said. “It gives them room to say ‘I don’t have to be ashamed of this or scared about it because it was not my fault.’ This book is not just trying to help children, it’s helping adults heal from the stigmatization of abuse.”

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