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Former Miss West Virginia to speak at empowerment event

By Staff | Feb 12, 2016

Spenser Wempe, who won the title of Miss West Virginia in 2011, will be the keynote speaker for an empowerment event taking place Feb. 20 at the Comfort Inn on Edwin Miller Boulevard titled “Bouncing Back from Sexual Abuse.”

The event is sponsored by the Bounce Back DNA Movement, a movement for men, women and teens who want to share their stories of hardships founded by Teresa Holmes, a life and career coach based in Martinsburg since 2009. The movement will celebrate its third anniversary in March.

“Through these events, those who have gone through sexual abuse and traumatic events share their personal stories because we want others to know not only that there is help and healing out there, but that it is also available and waiting for them,” Holmes said.

Wempe, 23, who opened up about the physical and sexual abuse she experienced in a blog post published Dec. 18, 2015, said she didn’t expect to become an advocate for those who have been affected by abuse.

“It was more of a personal catharsis,” said Wempe, a Shepherdstown native, during a recent telephone interview. “Very few people knew this intimate detail about my life. I don’t know if it was necessarily my intention, but by writing it down and sharing it with people, it really became so accepted by others that it took the burden off of me.”

Wempe said the event coming up later this month will be the second major event during which she has spoken. There is an event hosted by the American Association of University Women being held Feb. 13 in Morgantown where Wempe will share her story. Wempe now lives in Morgantown and works as a freelance photographer.

“I think that it’s really important to have events like this one coming up just to create a dialogue,” Wempe said. “A lot of conversations are underscored by traditional ideas of what we think sexual assault and violence are, and I hope this will shed light on some of the nuances that aren’t as recognizable to some people.”

The Bounce Back DNA Movement was created because of another event Holmes was hosting about the anthology of novels titled Wounds Healed, Scars Revealed. Some co-authors of the anthology, Anita Inman, Habibah Sulayman and Shannon Robinson, will also speak at the upcoming event.

“We were allowing local women in the community to come up and share their stories,” Holmes said. “That event was so powerful and well attended that we decided we couldn’t just stop there. What I know is that these stories have power in them, and they give others the courage and hope they need to heal.”

After a member of a support group organized by the Bounce Back DNA Movement shared Wempe’s story with Holmes, she knew she wanted to reach out to Wempe to be a speaker for this event. Wempe immediately agreed.

“What I thought was going to be me purging my feelings has become something that has opened doors for others,” Wempe said. “I can at least push someone in the right direction or let them know how they can get help.”

There will be medical professionals present at the upcoming event so individuals can reach out and see how they can get help if they would like to do so.

“This movement is not just for women who have experienced sexual abuse,” Holmes said. “These are powerful stories of men, women and teens who have faced a painful past. We want people to know that no matter what they’re going through, these stories can help them start their healing journey.”

Wempe said she hopes her story can help others who might not realize they are in abusive situations and to change the way sexual assault and violence are viewed in society.

“I didn’t really recognize what was happening while it was happening, so I think it’s really important to teach our kids as well as the adults in our society that there isn’t just one category (of sexual assault),” Wempe said. “We need to be cognizant of that fact.”

To read Wempe’s story, visit bit.ly/1nKfyrI.

For more information about the Bounce Back DNA Movement, visit bouncebackdnamovement.com.

“This is how the DNA comes in: they are genetically made to bounce back from anything if they just put one foot forward,” Holmes said. “We want to help them recover from and move past their deepest hurts and on to a prosperous life.”

The event is open to the public, and tickets can be purchased by calling Teresa Holmes at 304-886-8777 or by visiting bit.ly/1mgPd3b.