Model hopes her story of pain, triumph will empower others
- EFN Staff | April 14, 2017
From turning a painful experience into a campaign throughout the month of April, a Saskatoon woman is hoping her story will bring awareness on sexual assault.
Kealy Cheyenne Heeg, a model for Infinity Models in Saskatoon, first started this project by hosting a model safety seminar to teach models how to keep themselves safe. A photographer from the No Touchy campaign attended the seminar and got Heeg in touched with Shannon Lea, who is the founder of the No Touchy campaign, to organize a photoshoot to raise awareness on the issue.
“I want to be the voice for those who are unspoken for and I knew that there were other models within the agency who had been survivors as well,” she says. “I knew that they had stories to tell so Shannon said she would back us up 100%.”
Growing up, Heeg’s father feared for his daughter’s safety, so he put her in Taekwondo and self defense classes, and in her late teens, she enrolled herself in Brazilian kickboxing. Despite all the safety tools she picked up throughout her youth, nothing could prepare her for what she endured. At 16-years-old, Heeg attended a party and unknowing to her was given a paralytic drug and was raped. This traumatic nightmare did not end there. She was raped again by her ex-boyfriend – someone who she loved at one point.
“I spent years unable to cope with what had happened to me,” says Heeg in a Facebook post. “[I kept] it bottled inside, scrubbing at my skin night after night. I would burst into tears spontaneously when I’d consider getting close with someone else.”
Heeg decided to seek out counselling from Saskatoon’s Mental Health and Addiction’s Services and the Women’s Anger and Self Esteem group after she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It was a turning point for Heeg and she turned her life around. She is currently a finance manager, a model at the modeling agency, and an advocate for young men and women who share similar experiences to hers.
“One in four North Americans are affected by sexual assault…the statistic goes up to 57% if you're Aboriginal,” she says. “We wanted to gear toward our peers as well as people within the community.”
Heeg says the most important message she wants to convey in the awareness campaign is that sexual assault victims don't have to remain victims: speaking up about sexual assault will help them heal and move forward from a painful past.
“It was a major healing journey for all of us to be able to take our stories back. It was very empowering,” she says. “I feel like we came a long way and we were able to heal from that…we're putting ourselves out there and a lot of the stigma involved.”
The campaign was launched on April 1st for Sexual Assault Awareness month.