Friday, February 15, 2013

Joyful Noise: Empowering Survivors of Sexual Assault

Hey all,

Please check out my new project for the time being: "Joyful Noise." It's a place where survivors share their stories in order to gain some of their power back.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Taking your power back

I have been thinking a lot the past few days. I understand the importance of getting your voice heard. And I know how scary it can be to say something to a total stranger. But I wanted to invite all of you, any of you, to share your stories. Again, I am no Mariska, I am no professional, just a survivor who understands the importance of being heard.

Please, feel free to email me, anything. Their story, whatever. I want to give you all a chance to be heard. Sometimes it's helpful to have someone who's been through it listen invalidate. At least, that's how it was for me.

Anyone who wants to, you have an ear, a confidential year, right here.

Always feel free to email me. I am here to listen.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What goes around, comes around

In light of the response from posting my SVU story, I want anyone out there reading this that you are not alone. Mariska has saved me more than once with her words. And I want any survivor out there to know you are not alone.

I will gladly listen if you want your voice to be heard. I am no Mariska, by any means :) but I understand the importance of sharing your story with someone. I am no professional; I am just a fellow survivor who has been in that desperate spot of needing to be validated. So I want to give back what Mariska has given to me.

Please feel free to send me a Facebook message if you want; you will have a trusted listener who will never break your confidence.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

The SVU saga

I'm doing a post about this because I get asked this story many times, and it's an amazing one! Proof that dreams do come true, and that memories can sustain and nourish you through your most difficult times. I know that this adventure has sustained me through some difficult times.

In Summer of 2010 I was living in NYC with my boyfriend at the time. I knew about the website "on location vacations" but didn't know they posted daily filming locations so didn't know we could see them every day. One day, we were at the gym working when one of our clients at the front said that they were filming SVU at grand central. i demanded that we leave immediately!

So we run and jump on the subway and get to grand central. i'm flipping out praying that they were still filming (it was a saturday so i didn't know how long they'd be there). so we get there and we see all the trucks outside and ask someone where they were and they said they were inside. so we go in and go around a corner and see all the lights and camera crews set up. this was the premier of season 12 with joan cusack that they were filming. we watch them film and i see them from afar. then they have to change sets so they are walking downstairs and Chris Meloni walks right by me and I have a heart attack.

So then we walk down the stairs following them and I call my dad who's been an SVU fan since it first came on. I'm freaking out on the phone with him when I turn around and see my boyfriend talking to  someone. I ask him who he's talking to, and he said, "Oh this is Carlos, he goes to the gym, he works here." I thought he meant grand central, but then Brian (my boyfriend) said, "No he's the cameraman for SVU." I froze, and Carlos said "oh yeah, do you guys wanna go meet Chris and Mariska and everyone?" I then mumbled something to my dad and hung up on him, having a heart attack.

We go up the stairs and Carlos taps Chris on the shoulder. He turns around (omg his blue eyes) and shakes our hands as Carlos says, "These are my friends, they're weightlifters." Chris made a joke about how buff my boyfriend was, and then proceeded to drop into a weightlfiting move in the middle of of the set. we laughed so hard.

it was kind of a whirlwind because it was grand central and it was insane, but Carlos introduced us to everyone (except Dann Florek who wasn't there). We got a quick pic with Mariska. Then we hung out on set for about 2 hours and watched them film. I met Belzer's dog too haha. Belzer was bizarre, Ice T was cool altough we didn't get to talk to him for too long.

When they called it a night, we were outside near the trailers and a car pulled up and it was Mariska's husband picking her up. She put August in the car and I was standing near her door and my boyfriend said, "Say something!" So I called her name out and she turned around, and then omg I froze and said, "I love you!" She laughed and said thank you and apologized that we hadn't gotten to talk more earlier. I told her that I hoped we could talk again and she said totally! OMG best freakin night of my life.

So then, fast forward a couple more and Carlos emails us and invites us back on set the next day. we get there and meet Peter Leto, who's one of the main directors, and Dan Truly, one of the writers. They joke about how in shape and buff we are haha. Then Chris and Mariska get there, but Mariska has visitors so she's busy with them the whole time. But Chris just chilled with us. He's a total jock so we talked about sports and weightlifting for like 2 hours while they set up the stunt for the day (the big explosion in the second episode of season 12). anyways we hung around with him all day cuz he didn't do anything while they were doing the stunt. It was awesome just hanging out. Joked with the writer and director who both loved us. Mike Doyle was also there, who played Ryan O'Halloren, the CSU tech who was murdered by Dale Stuckey. When we had to go, Chris was sitting down and we said we had to go. He got up and walked over to me, and gave ME a HUGE hug. I almost died.

Then, a few weeks later, my last week in NYC, Carlos invited us back on set again for the last time. Peter was directing the episode and when we got there he was like, "Oh my god, they're here!" like super excited. Then he got a video of me and my boyfriend doing a weightlifting move and sent it to Dan Truly.

This was the episode "Merchandise", and we hung out while they were filming. They also filmed the Emmy promo for Mariska; Dann Florek was there but we didn't get a chance to meet him.  I re-introduced myself to Mariska (so nervous lol) cuz I was n't sure if she remembered us and she did (just not our names). So we watched them film, the camera crew took us out to lunch. Then, towards mid afternoon they were doing an interior shot and they werent sure if they were gonna have room for us. So we had to go say our goodbyes We went in and Mariska was just sitting there. I had a letter I'd been holding on to give to her, and my boyfriend told me it was now or never, and to do it. So I asked her if I could give it to her and she asked what it was and said yes of course! Then she asked if I wanted her to read it right there (i almost died) and I said sure. Then she said, "Let me just finish texting my husband." Then she read my letter which detailed some of the hardships I'd been through and the solace I'd found in her and SVU. she read it very diligently and a huge look of concern spread across her face. I went and sat next to her when she was done reading it, and then she gave me a HUGE hug and said, "I'm so sorry you've been through all that." Then we proceeded to talk for like 15  minutes (she even told one of the set people to leave us alone when they tried to come get her haha) and she tried to solve all my life problems. Like, gave me seriously amazing advice that I didn't know how to use then but ended up filing away and using in the future. It was amazing. Then she had to go film again so I told her I hoped to see her again.

We were supposed to go back on set the next day because Peter wanted us to come see the studio, but he ended up having to cancel because they were only doing interrogation shots so they didn't have space for us. We sadly never were able to go back, because my boyfriend ended up breaking up with me that December, and then when Neal Baer quit the show in the spring, the other crew members were all fired so we couldn't go back.

Then, fast forward to October 2011, over a year since I'd been on set. I had reconnected with Dan Truly that August. In october, I had to take an emergency trip to NYC but had nowhere to stay and was gonna have to stay at a crappy hostel in queens and then go to the bronx. I had posted on facebook that if anyone had a car to help drive me to the bronx from queens I'd appreciate it. The night before I was supposed to fly out, Dan Truly messages me and says that if I needed a place to stay, he'd be happy to put me up in a hotel, by myself. So he ended up paying for a 5 night hotel stay for me at the Parker Meridien, freakin 5 star hotel. I was completely dumbfounded and had the best 5 nights of my life.

I hadn't seen him since 2010 but he ended up taking me out to dinner twice. I had told him about most recent incident (one month before that) and he said he would try to get me in front of Mariska, but she hadn't responded to his texts and calls. The last night I was there, I wanted to go to my favorite restaurant in queens (in astoria) but he watned to go to this place near my hotel. so we went there, and ate dinner, then were about to order dessert when he looked at his phone (which had been flashing all night), and he said, "Oh my God." I asked him what, and he said, "My boss (Neal Baer) is having dinner with Mariska right down the street from us." I thought he was shitting me but he swore he wasn't and then said, "Do you want to go?" I almost had a freakin panic attack haha! Dan was like, "Don't corner her, she's not expecting this." Mind you, I was wearing my SVU t-shirt haha! But had another shirt on underneath, thank God.

So we got to the restaurant and walk in and find their table. BUT. It's not just Neal Baer and Mariska. Peter Hermann  and Mike Doyle were also there. I was completely dumbfounded. Dan introdced me to everyone and Mariska was like, "hi, I'm Mariska" (duh!) but then she said, "Wait a second, I know you." And I said, "Yeah Carlos Guerra brought us on set last summer," and she was like, "Oh I knew I remembered you!" She actually REMEMBERED me omg.

so anyways we sat down and I was so beside myself i was texing my mom under the table telling her what was happening and she didn't believe me. So then I had to go to the bathroom and call my dad because I was freakin out so much. once i had my moment i went back and sat down with them.

it was dessert time, and they were all making jokes, making fun of Sharon Stone, inside jokes (Mariska: "Dan is solid!" Mike: "Solid like barackackacka" Me: "Oh that was you!" = awkward) etc, and I was just sitting there dumbfounded. Mariska was so loud it was hilarious. Peter was sitting diagonal from me at the opposite end of the table, but he was the one who engaged me the most. he made it a point to talk to me the entire time, like super amazingly nice. then, mariska randomly announced to the table, "Rachel is a very talented athletE" (died) and I said, "Well I used to be." Then Peter asked me about that (said I was a weightlifter) and was genuinely interested and told Mariska to be quiet when she started laughing hysterically at the fact that one of the weightlifting moves I used to do was called a "snatch" (apparently there was an epsode where Chris had to say "It's a domestic snatch" and he could never get through the line without cracking up). When dessert came I was too nervous to have any so they ate all of it (Peter was reaching across the table). When Mariska looked down at the dessert that was at our end, she said, "What happened to the cheesecake?" Then Peter said, "Rachel ate all of it." Mariska said, "RACHEL ate all of it?!" jokingly but I panicked haha and I was like, "Uh no, I'm a chocolate girl," And Mariska said, "Yeah I understand that."

At the very end they were all about to go, and I took my chance to talk to Mariska. I had made a scrapbook from letters from survivors but didn't have it on me so I asked if I could give it to her another time. She said of course, and asked me how I was doing with everything. I kinda froze, because i had been my most recent incident was a month ago that night (like literally ONE month exactly), and I didn't know what to say. But then I told her, and it was amazing -- her entire demeanor changed, she completely slipped into Olivia Benson mode. Like really. We talked for about 5 min about everything that happened, and she told me things that she always says on tv and everything. It was incredible, even the gentle hand pats on the shoulder, and saying how sorry she was and that she hoped that I got help for myself because I deserved it, etc. So then, they all departed, we said goodbye, and I haven't seen her since then (although my friend who still works on set said hello to her for me and she said hi back=)


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Heart Opening

I only have one short thing to share. I received this email tonight and my heart has been filled with first panic and then awe and joy, from this one simple email.

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for reaching out and courageously sharing your story with
me. I am so sorry this happened to you. And this is not your fault.

I would like your permission to share this email with Maile Zambuto,
the CEO of Joyful Heart, so she can help you.

You are not alone.


There are no words. 

Much joy to you all.