What happens when three powerful Charlotte women get together with nothing but a microphone, a recorder and a topic that is often shamed into silence?
“I know this is horrible — please don’t tune out,” Ramona Holloway told viewers on Smart Mouth Life’s latest podcast, hosted by Rachel Sutherland and Donna Scott, which is airing today here or on iTunes.
The 107.9 The Link’s Matt & Ramona co-host appeared as the first featured guest of the new Charlotte podcast. The women came out swinging in the topic department — discussing sexual assault and why it’s important for allies to listen to survivors, not turning away simply because the details are difficult to hear.
Holloway was invited on the show to talk about the use of power in relation to sex abuse, accountability and how to best support survivors.
“She’s been speaking her mind on the radio for many years now and has only gotten stronger in her views during that time — something Rachel and I both admire,” Scott told CharlotteFive. “Ramona had been speaking out a bit on R. Kelly via social media and we wanted to give her a platform and some time to expand on the posts she’d made.”
As many of her fans may already know, Holloway herself is a sexual abuse survivor. She became a victim at age 5, and she kept her secret for a long time. She’s not alone; only about 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police, according to RAINN.
“I worried that people would judge me as damaged and that they’d assume my mother had neglected me,” Holloway told CharlotteFive.
She finally did tell her mother and a few friends. Then she wrote about her abuse in her blog in 2011, and then read her blog on-air on her radio show. “It felt heavy and horrible,” she said.
Holloway said she felt betrayed by her alma mater, Penn State. She described on the show an email she received from the president of the Charlotte Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association, accusing her of trying to bring down Penn State football.
“Hearing about the negative reactions Ramona got when she spoke out about Penn State was heartbreaking, but not at all surprising,” Sutherland said. “It’s going to take a lot of honest, brave talk to change the toxic culture towards survivors of sexual assault. Shame festers in the silence. We need to speak up and out often.”
Anyone who doesn’t stick up against the creepy priest, teacher or coach is part of the problem, Holloway said. However, she’s come to a point of acceptance for those who still want to support the celebrities that have been accused multiple times of sexual abuse.
“If you still feel like you should support R. Kelly or Bill Cosby … if you don’t understand this journey, good for you. You have no idea. I don’t want you to know. … I don’t want you to have that hurt from your childhood,” Holloway stated on the podcast. “You probably don’t understand because you don’t have to.”
“That’s an open-hearted way to look at it,” Scott responded.
“It’s horrible that we’re still jamming to ‘Keep it on the down low’,” Holloway said. “If you listen to it as a survivor: ‘Keep it on the down low? You mean, ‘keep your freakin’ secret?’ You freakin’ predator.”
Local support systems including Brave Step or Pat’s Place are there to help victims of abuse. Holloway said she toured Pats Place, where she found a tiny OB/GYN table with tiny stirrups, meant for a toddler. “That’s horrible,” she said. “Nobody wants to talk about that. But if we don’t expose what’s happening, we can’t fix it.”
“Ramona showed us that there is strength in speaking out while being respectful of survivors’ experiences,” Sutherland told CharlotteFive. “Ramona allowed me and Donna — as allies — to ask questions that were uncomfortable but so necessary. Ramona’s truth and honesty are inspiring and educational.”
Smart Mouth Life seemed to be the perfect place do exactly that — expose what’s happening. The podcast, which launched on Feb. 13, was created by Scott and Sutherland to discuss topics that they were told to keep silent about — hence, the smart mouth moniker.
Holloway and Sutherland have been friends for about 15 years, which allowed Holloway to feel a sense of security as a guest on the show, she told CharlotteFive. “Knowing I didn’t have to convince her [Sutherland] to support victims gave me a safe place to speak my truth. That is really important to survivors like me.”
Scott is an actor and producer who has served on the boards of Girl Talk Foundation and Girls Rock Charlotte. She currently serves on the board of the Charlotte Art League. Sutherland is the owner of a public relations/marketing firm and is the former style editor of The Charlotte Observer. She serves on the boards of the Piedmont Culinary Guild and Project One.