Stanford assault victim joins others in sharing stories for future Courage Museum
SAN FRANCISCO - Inside a building in San Francisco's Presidio, a team of workers with Futures Without Violence is trying to change the idea of what a museum can be.
"Museums can be so much more than places that show objects. We understand that they can be places where you can tell the stories of real people who have real lived experiences. And you can also help build empathy," said Rachael Smith Fals, the senior vice president of Futures Without Violence.
The building is still a work in process. Posters and prototypes line the walls where the team at Futures Without Violence hopes to build a Courage Museum.
"Courage to share your story with somebody else can also give license for them to share theirs," said Smith Fals. "So this can be a place where they can find healing and hope and connection."
As part of that connection, the museum has hired camera crews to capture short films of people sharing stories of their trauma and the courage that carried them through it.
Chanel Miller is among the storytellers who've agreed to share their stories of trauma. Her story recounts the feelings after being sexually assaulted on Stanford's campus by a student made national headlines.
"I was scared to share my story because I saw it as a burden. I don't want to give you this really heavy ugly thing," said Miller. "So I'd better keep it to myself."
"Every time I've told my story around sexual assault, it's been in a courtroom or hospital room or a police station," said Miller.
But it's the courage of people pulling through the pain that shines in each of the videos the Courage Museum is making.
At a prototype booth, visitors will be able to see the videos in what they call an empathy mirror, where people can sit in a booth, listen, and learn.
"In court, I never liked how it was positioned, like me against my attacker fighting," said Miller, "So many victims are not fighting for harsh sentences or jail time. They're fighting to have somebody look them in the eyes and say I'm sorry that I hurt you. I understand what I did too. I will never do it again."
The goal in this future museum, focused on not just looking at objects, but looking inside, into the hearts of others and our own.