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You Are The One: Victim Advocates Take Message To Masses

One sexual assault is too many. One student can make a difference. Tampa Bay residents Kelly Addington and Becca Tieder have set out to bring this message to the masses, changing the culture of sexual violence in our society.

The two have been best friends for 23 years, going through high school, college, work and other life changes together. In college they were very involved on campus, took basic safety education and thought they did everything right. Their world literally stopped when Addington was the victim of a sexual assault. 

They were surprised at how difficult it was to find resources in a crisis situation. It was that experience that led them to dedicate their lives to changing the way our culture views sexual violence.

"Once the recovery process began, we realized we had a responsibility to our healing -- and to our community -- to do something about it,'' says Tieder.

In 2010 they formed a nonprofit organization called One Student. They travel to college campuses across the U.S. to educate students about sexual assault. The message is not one of sadness and gloom, but rather of empowerment, motivation and support. They address boundaries, choices and most of all respect. Addington's calm, realistic demeanor mixed with Tieder's natural sense of humor makes for a creative combination that connects with the audience and makes what is usually a touchy subject all of the sudden approachable. 

They've reached more than half a million students since they began, and they don't plan to stop any time soon.

"When we talk about it, that's when we can begin to change the culture,'' says Addington.

The team uses creative mediums such as videos, posters and real testimonies from survivors in their educational campaigns. One such medium is a documentary called "You are the One,'' which is set to premier September 22 at the Reeves Theater inside the Vaughn Center at the University of Tampa.

The Film Maker

Local film editor and producer Barbara Rosenthal approached Tieder and Addington in the spring of 2011 with the idea of turning their story into a film. At first they were skeptical, knowing they didn't have the money for funding. But, Rosenthal convinced them to go for it and ended up finding a grant from the Waterfield Foundation, as well as private donors to fund the piece.

A survivor of sexual assault herself, Rosenthal of Buzz Media felt close to the issues Tieder and Addington speak about and was drawn to the way they handle things with grace, humor and passion.

"I'm just blown away by what they do and how they do it,'' says Rosenthal. Working on the film also helped her accept her own experience as a survivor.

Rosenthal has been living in the Tampa area since 1991 and started producing films locally in 1996. She made her first film at the age of seven, about how the Arabs stole Hannakuh (a pun on How the Grinch Stole Christmas). Her editing career began at Edit Suites in Tampa, where several former employees have gone on to larger film careers. To film the piece, a camera crew followed Tieder and Addington as they traveled. They also took their own camera to add some raw experience.

"The film is emotional at times, but there's some really great elements of humor,'' says Rosenthal, adding that she stays away from things that are too heavy handed in her films. "Life is like that -- it's full of good and bad things, but that's what makes it real.''

Changing The World By Sharing Stories

Rosenthal's goal in producing the documentary is, simply put, to change the world. She wants people to understand that this is a real issue. "If we want to build a better world, better culture, stronger culture, we have to stop hurting each other,'' says Rosenthal.  Working on the documentary was "very humbling, surreal, strange and comfortable all at once,'' says Addington.

The film includes testimonies of survivors and their loved ones. Stories of sharing and courage. Victims who want their voices to be heard. Like Sabrina, who didn't want what happened to her to define her. "If I stop living my life, then they get the best of me,'' Sabrina says in the film.

"The reason I'm able to tell my story over and over again is because I know it's not just my story,'' says Addington. 

It's a story Tieder and Addington hope no one else will ever have to tell.

Megan Hendricks is a Florida native and longtime Tampa Bay resident who loves the culture and diversity of the region. In her free time she enjoys local restaurants, thrift store shopping and spending time with her family. She earned her masters of business administration from USF Tampa. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

Megan Hendricks is a feature writer and editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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