The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

Whitehall/Cardwell Based We Are HER Helps Thousands

 

April 14, 2021

Photos courtesy AMANDA KAY PHOTOGRAPHY from www.weareher.net

HEALED, EMPOWERED, RESTORED: Croisant (second from left) with several of HER's survivors.

"I just remembered thinking of my parents and how they must have felt thinking they might lose both of their children," said Stevie Croisant, founder of the local nonprofit We Are HER (Healed, Empowered, Restored). "First, it was a real possibility that my brother wouldn't come home from Afghanistan. But then it became clear that they might lose me to domestic violence."

We Are HER helps survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault heal after trauma. The organization was founded after Croisant left an abusive relationship in 2016.

Since then, Croisant has helped thousands of survivors across the globe through We Are HER, but her efforts to create change for survivors of abuse or assault wouldn't have been possible without her own story.

Croisant moved to Montana from a very small town in Illinois, similar to the size of Whitehall. When she was 14, her parents took her and her brother on a two-week vacation to Yellowstone National Park.

"It was the first time I had ever seen mountains, and it was a life-changing experience," she said. "I promised myself I would move here someday."

Three months after graduating from college, Croisant did just that. She got her first job in Bozeman, packed all her things, and moved to a place where she didn't know anyone.

"I remember waking up every morning and just staring out at the Bridgers. I couldn't believe this place was my home. It felt surreal," she said.

Eventually, the then 22-year-old started dating, and she found herself in a 18-month-long relationship with a man who became physically violent with her.

"I know everyone asks, 'why didn't you leave?' But I did. Not right away, because housing was such an issue in Bozeman, I couldn't afford to be out on my own when I wanted to be, and it was scary trying to come up with a feasible plan to leave while also worrying about if he'd find out."

It took Croisant about two months to leave.

Croisant had every reason to be afraid. According to STAND (https://www.standffov.org/statistics), a national domestic violence organization, the most lethal time in an abusive relationship is after a victim leaves. More than 70 percent of domestic violence murders happen after the victim has left.

"It didn't get easier once I left," she said, referring to the legal battle she and another victim of the same perpetrator faced. Currently, he is on probation for a felony charge.

"Once I was free, I started writing my story out. It was cathartic," she said. "And I realized that if it was healing for me, maybe it could be for other survivors too."

In August of 2016, Croisant started asking close friends if they would be interested in sharing pieces of their stories weekly on a blog. By October of that year, five other survivors were writing their stories on the We are Her website, http://www.weareher.net.

By December, survivors from all over the country were reaching out wanting to share their stories.

"People I didn't know were contacting me. I didn't realize how big of a need there was for survivors to share."

By 2018, Croisant realized she could be doing more.

"It started when a survivor contacted me asking to share their story in a different medium. They said writing was too hard for them. A year later, I was starting the We Are HER podcast."

At the same time, she had also applied for her 501c3, to operate as a nonprofit.

"It was important for me to become a nonprofit. Until then, I remember someone saying that We Are HER is "just a blog," but I knew that people would take my work seriously if we became an organization. I knew it was important for people to take these survivor stories seriously."

Since becoming a nonprofit, We Are HER has a mission statement to "help every survivor become HER - healed, empowered, and restored - through our online community."

HER's programming operates under three pillars: story sharing, connection, and education.

"We help survivors share their story on our blog and podcast, we make sure we connect survivors through both in-person and digital Survivor Meetups, and we host educational workshops about how to heal after trauma."

One of the best feelings Croisant has is when survivors message her to let her know that the stories published on We Are HER's blog have helped them leave their abusive relationships.

"Before starting We Are HER, no one ever taught me what abuse was. It's so helpful that we continue sharing stories, so that when it happens, we aren't afraid to label it for what it is, and take the necessary actions we need to in order to feel safe."

With COVID nearing an end, Croisant is hoping to resume in-person programming. We Are HER has hosted in-person Survivor Meetups in Texas, Illinois, and Bozeman and is hoping to start meetups in Whitehall.

"All we need is a safe meeting location and a way to spread the news about our group! Having a Whitehall Survivor Meetup meet monthly would be so important to survivors here."

Editor's Note: We are HER is very near and dear to my heart. While I am a founding board member, more importantly, Croisant is like a little sister to me. This is Part I of a series of articles on We are HER.

In the future, I would like to feature more non-profits doing great things in our area. Please contact me with information if you have a suggestion.

 

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