By Dana Kozlov

CHICAGO (CBS) — Jennifer Ramirez isn’t afraid to talk about it.  In fact, she’s made a life by speaking about her trauma and healing.

“I am a child sexual abuse survivor and I also went through domestic, emotional and financial abuse as an adult,” said Ramirez, the founder of a non-profit called And Rise.  “The ‘and’ means your story isn’t over yet, that there is more to tell. ‘Rise’ means rising above adversity that you’ve been through.”

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Ramirez says 10 years ago, she never thought she’d be the executive director of a women’s empowerment organization.   That’s about the time she she hit rock bottom, struggling to raise her young daughter alone, dating an abusive man and keeping her childhood abuse secret.  Ramirez says she her ‘lightbulb moment’ came after a fight with that boyfriend got physical.

“The lightbulb went on: This man does not respect you. I was like I need to make a change,” Ramirez said. “It was not what I want for myself, and especially not for my daughter.”

She started And Rise in her living room in 2019.  It offers counseling, in-person and virtual support groups and workshops, connecting with more than 500 women so far.

Nadia Quito, a 25-year-old sexual assault, child and domestic abuse survivor, is one of them.  She attends the weekly support group.

“You feel connected.  You feel safe, and that’s so important for survival” she said.

Ramirez says getting women in her culture to open up can be especially challenging-

“I will say in the Black and Latino community, there is a stigma about mental health and talking about things. We just don’t talk about these things that happen, unfortunately.  But I will say that we all suffer the same way.”

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She hopes, eventually, to help women all over the world recognize their trauma doesn’t define them.

“You can say no and there are such things as boundaries and that’s how you gain your power back is by saying no,” Ramirez said.

More information:

IG @andrise_women

FB @womenrisechicago

Website – www.womenrisechicago.org

YouTube – & Rise

https://youtube.com/channel/UCuy6k2aCxWQUDpq0P9bbSnQ

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